Sunday, August 23, 2009

On The Appellation Trail

I've long been fascinated by names -- names of things, names of places, names of people. I like words for and pertaining to names -- appellation, monicker, nomenclature, ycleption. Here are some assorted items involving names.

My Mom used to keep a list of what she called "punny names" -- mostly puns on common terms or phrases, written in the form of people's names. When I was in high school I got to contribute to the list. I used liked punny-name titles starting with "Sir" or "Miss," depending on the gender of the name's owner: Sir Prize, Miss Demeanor, Sir Eptitious, Miss Take, Sir Tinly, Miss Place, Sir Loin, Miss Direction, Sir Cuitous, Miss Conception, Sir Plus, Miss Information, Sir Cull, Miss Understanding and Miss Givings. My personal favorite was Sir Real.

Half a dozen common first names (or nicknames for first names) are the names of letters: Bee, Dee, Jay, Kay, Em. (Seems odd to me that there aren't any in the second half of the alphabet; I've heard "Vee" as a nickname for names starting with V, but that's more like calling someone by an initial.) At one point in high school my friend Bea stumbled while walking; another friend nearby, concerned, exclaimed, "Oh, gee, Bee, are you okay?" -- a string of seven letters, particularly impressive given its impromptu nature. (For lots of phrases pronounced like strings of letters, by the way, see William Steig's marvelous book CDB.)

I think it's fairly obvious (to an American, anyway), especially given the current context, what these people have in common:

* Georgia O'Keeffe
* Indiana Jones
* Minnesota Fats
* Mississippi John Hurt
* Tennessee Williams (or Tennessee Ernie Ford)
* U. Utah Phillips
* Virginia Woolf (or Virginia Heinlein)
* Washington Irving

Can you think of any other people (or characters) that fit in any of these lists?

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