Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Poopó Lake" and "Lake Titicaca"

Why oh why do they deny us the awesomeness? Or rather, why do they only mete out half-full glasses of it? I want my cup of awesomeness to run over.

Now, there's no use in complaining about Lake Titicaca. The lake, located in the mountains of Bolivia, is a God-send to lovers of awesome names everywhere. A schoolyard word for breasts and a schoolyard word for human waste stuck together: it couldn't be more awesome if it was called Lake Boobycrap. No matter your age, once you've stopped giggling at the name 'Lake Titicaca', you've stopped smiling at life. I think people who actually live on the shore of Lake Titicaca periodically still giggle at it: that's right, even people who know no English can giggle at the name Lake Titicaca. Its awesomeness cuts across linguistic bounds.

But what I don't understand is how I've gone this far in life without ever noticing that Lake Titicaca is just a few hundred kilometres northwest of Poopó Lake. However it's pronounced, I know exactly how I would have pronounced it if I had known of its existence as, say, a ten-year-old. Having both a Lake Titicaca and a Poopó Lake in the same country? Just how gifted is Bolivia?

Eternally is the ten-year-old within me jealous.

Incidentally, the picture above, swiped from Wikipedia, is apparently salt crystals in a footprint near Poopó Lake. No clue why that happens. Apparently there's fishing there, which is great, because "Fishing in Poopó Lake" is apparently the name of the Bloodhound Gang's new album. You can also go canoeing in Poopó Lake, though you might want to bring an extra oar or two. After all, you wouldn't want to be stuck in Poopó Lake without a paddle...

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Michael Hardie Boys"

So this is what it's like being me. I keep a whole bunch of blogs. Well, 'keep' is a poor term. I'm a bit undisciplined about it, really. But I slog away at a bunch, nonetheless. And that being the case, happy coincidences can occur. Like the one blog I'm writing about democracy in Canada that gets to talking about a former governor-general of Canada. The page I'm reading (which was very likely Wikipedia) quotes a recent governor-general of New Zealand. Since, you know, governors-general have a lot in common, whatever Commonweath realm they're from (and I wrote that sentence only to use that cool plural form 'governors-general').

So big deal, right? Except that this fellow happens to be names Michael Hardie Boys. Or rather "The Right Honourable Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM, GCMG, QSO, KStJ", whose business cards must be A4 sheets of paper.

So how awesome a name is that? Let us count the ways. Well, there's just one way actually - the fact that his surname happens to also be the name of a successful series of young adult mysteries. Before I got bored of adding them up, I'd counted some three hundred written over the past, oh, century or so. They include such not-overly-awesome titles as: "The Missing Chums", "What Happened at Midnight", "The Twisted Claw", "The Melted Coins", "The Secret of Wildcat Swamp", "The Mystery of the Chinese Junk", "Mystery of the Whale Tattoo", "The Bombay Boomerang", and "The Clue of the Hissing Serpent". Yeah sure, the books are spelt "H-A-R-D-Y", the burger joint is spelt "H-A-R-D-E-E", and this gentleman is spelt "H-A-R-D-I-E". But what's a minor spelling discrepancy in the service of awesomeness?

Michael Hardie Boys, incidentally, was Governor-General from 1996 to 2001. He was then replaced by The Right Honourable Nancy Drew.

A-ho ho ho.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Ho-Chunk Nation"

Sometimes I feel like I mention Native Americans too often. Recognising that First Nations have some awesome names is cool. Dwelling on it seems a bit patronising, though. But how to resist?

I mean, when there's a tribe in Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin called the 'Ho-Chunk' people? Let's take a minute to appreciate the awesomeness of 'Ho-Chunk'. Ah... Moving on, the Ho-Chunk were previously known as the 'Winnebago' people (relatively standard Plains-style name, but way cooler because the RV makers stole it). It turns out that 'Winnebago' means 'People of the Stinking Water', and the Ho-Chunk people didn't appreciate the connotation. Thus, because they found the common name unbecoming, they went with Ho-Chunk. 'This is a name', they said, 'that will restore our people's lost dignity...'

Apparently, 'Ho-Chunk', which is quite difficult to spell after all,can also be speltany of the following ways: Hocak, Hotanke, Houchugarra, Hotcangara, Ochungaraw, Ochungarah, Hochungra, Hochungara, and Ochangara. It might mean 'fish eaters' or 'the big fish people' or 'the big speech people'. Or, as the elders declare, 'the people of the sacred language'.

Blah. that's the least interesting one. That sacred language, incidentally, is also called 'Ho-Chunk'. You'll be pleased to know it can be written using the so-called 'Pa-Pe-Pi-Po syllabics'. Of course it can.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Shades of Death Road"

There are just so many roads and streets in the world that inevitably a good many will have interesting names. It's kind of a law-of-averages thing. In the particular case of this road, in rural New Jersey, the macabre nature of the road's name, the origin of which is not clear, has given it a certain amount of infamy. Tourists will travel along the street, much to the displeasure of locals, expecting something spooky to happen (or stealing the road sign). Locals, tired of replacing the road sign, refer to the street by the less interesting name of "Shades Road".

Inevitably, perhaps, certain tales and urban legends have indeed sprung up around the street. Many seem to involve highwaymen, lynching and other such items from America's recent past. Wikipedia reports on a curious event in which a series of hundreds of creepy Polaroid photographs of women were found scattered in the woods nearby.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Saskatchewan Roughriders" and "Ottawa Rough Riders"

2010 Grey Cup FestivitiesImage by Sangudo via FlickrI honour of Saskatchewan's loss in the Grey Cup last week, I present an oldie but a goody: the CFL. The Canadian Football League represents Canada in a way that few other Canadian insitutions ever will: rather hokey, definitely small-potatoes, and yet somehow carrying on year after year and never quite fading away into oblivion. I don't think that's praise exactly for the CFL, but it's if nothing else a fond recognition that, like the trains that used to run across this country, some Canadian traditions carry on long after people stop realising they're there...

I jest, mildly. For years, one of the best-known things about the CFL, particularly during its ill-fated jorney Down South, was the fact that in a league with only nine or so teams, two had almost exactly the same name. And a name that was/is, let's be honest, more than a little silly. Yes, I know, the two names were not exactly the same. Ottawa had - wate for it - a space between the 'rough' and the 'riders'. Saskatchewan didn't. Wikipedia tells me it's got to do with the fact that the two teams were for many years part of different conferences, which functioned almost like different leagues. Wikipedia also states that "the Ottawa team was named for the log rollers of the region's rivers while the Roughriders were named for an elite North-West Mounted Police corps of expert horsemen." None of which makes it any less silly.

Anyway, it's all in the past as the Ottawa team folded in 1996. In the intervening 14 years, Ottawa has managed to get, and then lose, a second team and is about to get a third. Perhaps they'll call themselves the "Argo Nauts".
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