Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Amor de Cosmos"

Amor de CosmosImage via WikipediaAwesomeness is largely a question of context. Let me explain. At first appearance, by itself the name "Amor de Cosmos" is awesomeness-neutral. Just a name. Closer inspection indicates it appears to more-or-less roughly translate as 'lover of the universe', which ramps up its awesomeness points.

But the knowledge that it was an alias, made up by an anglo Canadian born with the exceedingly pedestrian name William Alexander Smith removes those awesomeness points. Learning that he had his name legally changed while living in California, where he'd gone to participate in the Gold Rush, however, brings back those points, because anything connected with the Gold Rush is awesome.

Then learning that de Cosmos came back to British North America and served as Premier of British Columbia, serving a little more than a year in that highest of offices with silly quasi-Spanish and Hippyesque name intact throws the awesomeness levels through the roof. It reminds me of a time when the west was maybe a bit wilder than it currently is. And it could perhaps remind the beleaguered Gordon Campbell, upon his departure, that the office he's currently abandoning has been held by colourful people in the past.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump"

Might as well just leap right in with an explanation. A 'buffalo jump' is a small cliff-like natural formation on the plains. Buffalo being a herd animal, they rather famously like to stomp across the plains in stampedes. In pre-Columbian times, several Plains Indians tribes would attempt to divert a buffalo stampede so that the animals would, en masse, run off the cliff, breaking their legs and rendering them easy victims for hunters. So a buffalo jump was a place where you could make buffalo jump, to their (indirect) death.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is such a buffalo jump, located in Alberta. The Blackfoot name for the site, now a UNESCO-protected heritage site, is Estipah-skikikini-kots, definitely an awesome name all by itself, particularly that middle bit. Apparently it refers to some Blackfoot person who was too eager to see the buffalo jump at work and decided (stupid, stupid man) to go under it and look up. He obviously got his head smashed in, and instead of calling it "Idiot-Looking-Up Buffalo Jump", they went for the more poetic "Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump".

So now you know how one of the coolest place names ever got its name.

Incidentally, the Blackfoot people could also be here on this very list. The first time I'd ever heard the word 'Blackfoot' was when I was a Cub Scout, and there were sew-on badges you could get saying "Je parle francais", "Ich spreche Deutch", etc. One was for Blackfoot, and I can remember confusedly asking my Cub Scout leader what on earth 'I speak Blackfoot' was meant to mean. He looked at the catalogue I was reading from, squinted his eyes a bit, then sagely concluded, "I guess it's a language." I thought it was just about the weirdest name possible. Still do.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"$#*! My Dad Says"

Have you ever seen Gordon Ramsey on television? Well, I don't know what it's like in Britain, where (a) he's from, and (b) broadcast regulations are a bit less silly. I have seen some of his programmes here in Canada, broadcast either on local channels or on American channels whose feeds we get up here. And inevitably it's the same thing: a torrent of beeps imposed by the network over top of whatever string of invective Ramsey is carrying on about. After all, that's why you watch Gordon Ramsey, right? Not to learn about cooking or restaurant service or about exotic foods of the world: you watch Gordon Ramsey programmes to watch Gordon Ramsey swear. That's the sole reason.

So that being the case, American networks air him (and several of his programmes are, I believe but can't be bothered to confirm, American-made) knowing (a) he'll swear like a sailor, and (b) people will tune in for that reason. This being the case, there is an inherent ridiculousness in the barrage of bleeps. It'd be like launching a porn site where all the activity is hidden behind black bars. It's not like a news broadcast, where the network has to balance its own standards and sensitivities with the reality of 'outsourcing' its soundbites: if a witness drops a few f-bombs while describing the plane crash he witnessed, what is the network to do? Ask him to speak again but keep his language clean? Obvously a censor needs a beep-button. But in the case of Gordon Ramsey (or a million other examples, particularly on so-called 'reality' programmes), the people in question are employed by the production company, are contracted to them. If you don't want to air dirty words, ask your on-air personalities not to say them. Or if you want to show your on-air personalities to be short-fused potty-mouths, then grow up and play the words unbeeped. It's just common sense.

Make no mistake, the TV show "$#*! My Dad Says" does not have an awesome name. It's not a good name or even a 'meh' name. It's a god-awful name. What drives me crazy about it is the following: if you've decided that you want to name a TV show after a Twitter account (and that in itself is a strange thing), and if the name of the Twitter account happens to include a four-letter-word in it, there are really only two possibilities as I see it: (1) include the four-letter-word in your title, damn the consequences (i.e. grow up and accept that a word is just a word) or (2) change the damn name of your show. In other words, either $#*! or get off the pot.