Thursday, February 10, 2011


If you put your right index finger on the letter 'k', your left index finger on the letter 'w' and your left middle finger on the letter 'a', and if you then proceed to tap on them more or less randomly, it turns out you might spell the name of a Native group indigenous to British Columbia. The Wikipedia page helpfully notes that in orthography it can be spelt as Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw or Kʷakʷəkəw̓akʷ, but then angrily points out that it's wrong to call them the Kwakiutl, because after all that word is only 75% unpronounceable, and the Kwakwaka'wakw were looking for 100%. To that end, some of the Kwakwaka'wakw nations are called Da'naxda'xw, Kwikwasut'inuxw and Gwat'sinuxw. On the other hand, as they are responsible for the purely rockin' smiling-house illustrated above, they win for awesome.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Cardinal Sin"

There are plenty of people walking around with puns for names. Many of them made punk music in the early eighties. But it's rarer to find someone who (a) came about the pun in their name quite naturally, and (b) carries a punning name that's genuinely funny.

So meet Jaime Sin, who died in 2005, but before that was famous not only for his high ranking within the Catholic Church and his importance to the politics of the Philippines but also for the awesome name that resulted from that position. As Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, he was known as 'Cardinal Sin'.

If you don't get the joke, while 'Sin' (or Xin or Shin) is not that uncommon a name in eastern Asia, the joke is that what we also call the 'seven deadly sins' are also called 'Cardinal Sins'. So gluttony, for example, is a Cardinal Sin. As is lust. As, of course, is this guy.

Cardinal Sin had a sense of humour about his name, referring to his official residence as 'the house of Sin'. He might also have taken water-off-a-duck's-back comfort in the knowledge that his efforts to topple the Marcos regime and bring democracy to his homeland would, ultimately, matter more than the odd giggle about his name.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Anus Language" and "Anal Language"

It's certainy funny that there's a language in the world called the "Anus Language", even if it's a critically endangered language spoken by only seventy people in Papua New Guinea. One is tempted to say, "come on now, let's not be immature here; it's probably pronounced to rhyme with 'caboose', and anyway it's a big ol' world with all kinds of different languages and names, and let's be grown-ups here'. But Wikipedia helpfully reminds us of the awesomeness buried below the surface with this helpful disambiguation:
Not to be confused with Anal language.
 Which, you see, is just way more awesome. It leads to an image of thousands of linguists feigning sombre respect while still subconsciously giggling like schoolkids. Anal Language, it would seem, is spoken in India and Myanmar by some 14,000 people. That's still a tiny number, though it's exponentially more than Anus Language. It turns out to be a 'Kuki-Chin-Naga Language', which of itself is more than a bit awesome.

So it would be a crime to end this entry without pointing out that, while only 70 people speak Anus Language and only 14,000 speak Anal Language, there are literally billions of humans out there who speak out of their ass every single day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Vital Cliche"

When you Google it, you do see reference to the boy's name 'Vital', which as I had suspected is pronounced "vee-TAL", like the hip-hop staple 'Cristal'. And since the web site of the Assemblée national du Québec lists the surname 'Cliche', whether belonging to this man or to his son Lucien or to his grandson David (all of whom were MNAs in Québec), sans accent ague, one must imagine that it's pronounce "cleesh".

So "vee-TAL cleesh" just sounds like any-old-person's name, quite concievable the name of a politician from Beauce, Québec in the first half of the 20th century, an elected MNA for the flash-in-the-pan Action libérale nationale party that was subsumed into the Union nationale of Maurice Duplessis. Not joining that party sealed the fate (obscurity) of this politician whose name isn`t all that cool until you look at it written on the printed page and pronounce it as two words, meaning a hackneyed phrase that is somehow essential or perhaps keeps people alive. That would be an awesome name, say for a book or a rock group.

Note: the picture that illustrates this article has nothing at all to do with MNAs from Québec. It was, however, no less irrelevant than any other picture I could find while Googling this most obscure of politicians.
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Name-Change Petitions from 'The Smoking Gun'

Ah, The Smoking Gun. While Wikileaks has earned instant notoriety for declassifying government documents, The Smoking Gun has been plugging away at it for 13 years. Why haven't the governments of the world conspired to bring down TSG's founder - whoever that even is?

Well, Wikileaks might be interested in cables from foreign embassies and Iraq War documents, but TSG has devoted itself selflessly to celebrity mug shots and silly crime reports. Noble in its own way - and a lot less dangerous.

If you ignore the who-cares NFL connection, there's a great article here revealing people whose surnames or given names at birth have been so unfortunate (usually foreign names that just don't sound that great in the English language) that they've been forced to change them. I think it's great to be proud of your own name, whatever it is, but I can hardly blame these people for wanting a fresh start. Not that in each case I agree with the decisions they made, but who am I to judge?
  • In Chicago in 2005, a Mr. Fuk King Kwok decided to change his name to the slightly-less obscene 'Andy King Kwok'.
  • I get why New Yorker John Pearce Dick was upset about his not-uncommon name. His ultimate choice, however, 'John Dick Pearce' is no better at all. In fact, it's significantly worse.
  • Another New Yorker in 1996, the not-too-bad William Gerard Doody decided to become 'William Gerard Ryan', a blander name made up of first names.
  • Henry N. Schmuck and the whole family of Schmucks, in Manhattan all the way back in 1942, went for the more genereic 'Shelton' surname.
  • Again in New York but this time 1977, David William Queer decided to become 'David William Quist'.
  • Still in New York and now in 1995, Robert E. Suckey Jr. decided not to repeat his father's fate, taking instead the name 'Robert Salviotti'. One wonders if he had any Italian heritage or just liked the sound of it.
  • Poor Monica Katherine Pinas of Chicago didn't have that bad a name... until you try to pronounce it out loud, that is. In 2004, she decided enough was enough and went for the not-that-much-more-respectable 'Monica Katherine Star' instead.
  • Mary Jo Porn of Chicago had a great name. It's not merely that her surname is so prurient; it's how it clashes with her corn-fed first name. I don't think, say, 'Elizabeth Porn' or 'Alessandra Porn' would have been as bad. Anyway, she'd had enough and went for 'Mary Jo Tavormina' instead.
  • In New York in 1967, Vladimir Fuka and his wife Eva Fukova (which I actually think is a very nice name) got bored of the snickering. So because they were sick of having a name that was just a letter-change or two away from a sexually naughty word, they decided to become... 'Vladimir and Eva Hervert'. Sigh. Well, they were Czech. Perhaps they were yet to master English.