DJ names

Listening to KFJC (Foothill College’s radio station) yesterday, I was struck once again by the names of their DJs (full list here). Some are names borrowed from a variety of sources:

Number 6 (The Prisoner), Dorian Gray (The Picture of), Ann Arbor (Michigan city), Morris Minor (British economy car), Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker’s Guide), Boo Radley (To Kill a Mockingbird), Sluggo (Nancy comic book character), Goodwrench (GM auto repair service)

Others are puns:

Abacus Finch (Atticus Finch), Sir Cumference (circumference), Austin Space (Lost in Space), Thurston Hunger (thirst and hunger), Greta Clue (get a clue), Dominic Trix (dominatrix)

Echoes here of drag names, roller derby names, and stripper names — all rich sources of language play.

Drag names came up, incidentally, in my recent “queer comics” posting: the opening of the exhibition featured drag performances by Sue Casa, Trangela Lansbury (my favorite), and Karma Zabetch.

From a San Francisco Chronicle article (by Reyhan Harmanci) covering a panel discussion on “Queer Names of Stage, Screen and Fiction” at the January 2005 meeting of the American Name Society, which included

Philip Carter’s “The Social Meanings of Drag Queen Names” and Rebecca Childs’ “Drag Kings: Creating a Name in a More Socially Conscious Performance Space.” Carter distributed a handout breaking down a list of drag queen names in the Washington, D.C., area by racial and class markers. Unsurprisingly, many drag queens chose honorifics such as Lady and Miss and upwardly mobile names like Xaviar Onassis Bloomingdale or, less frequently, overtly lower-class monikers such as Winnie Baygo or Mary K. Mart. Ethnic stereotypes got some play too, with China Silk and Bang Bang Ledesh.

If hyperfeminity was the drag queens’ goal, drag kings work equally hard to come up with deeply masculine markers. (Drag kings are women performing as men, often, like drag queens, to music.) Sample names: Moby Dick, Pat Riarch, Jacques Strap and Miles Long.

A sample of drag queen names, from various sources:

Amanda Reckonwith, Helen Wheels, Anna Conda, Anita Honey, Peaches Christ, Robin Banks, Devilyn Disguise, Hedda Lettuce

and of drag king names:

Noah Vail, Jim Bunny, Ben Dover, Randy Bush, Rock Steady, Mo B. Dick, Buck Naked

On to roller derby names:

To understand how roller derby names are formed, we only have to look at Whip It … This film has put the sport of roller derby prominently in the spotlight, and the names of the characters are great examples of roller derby names — Smashly Simpson (play on the name of singer Ashlee Simpson), Babe Ruthless (from baseball icon Babe Ruth), Iron Maven (from British metal band Iron Maiden), Rosa Sparks (from civil rights activist Rosa Parks) and Eva Destruction (play on the phrase eve of destruction).

Basically any pun (or play on words) is fair game, including those which make the name even more hardcore, references horror movies, fighting, cool history or brings pop culture creatively into the mix. It’s an opportunity to invent an alter ego of sorts and be a totally different person on the track. Generally shorter names are easier to remember, and you also want a name that is easy to pronounce and whose references people will “get.” (link)

A few more examples from the same site:

Ace of Skates, Baditude, Bent Reznor, Flo Shizzle, Girlzilla, Johnny Crash, Helen Killer, Killah Bees, Queen Cobra, Shannibal Lector

And then, stripper names. For women, these are mostly first names designed to convey an image of sexiness, exoticness, or class (Mercedes, Natasha, Desiree, Tiffany, Cristal, Savannah, Cognac, Pandora), but a few are more inventive (Star Anise, Miss Behavior, Chocolate Dip). The male counterparts are also mostly first names (Rusty, Richardo, Valentino, Stallion, Romeo), but with a few more inventive size-bragging choices (Big Harry Banana, Johnny Long).

(As I noted in my 2005 ANS presentation — handout here — names of gay male pornstars are full of high-masculine connotations, but are explicitly sexual less often than you might have expected.)

5 Responses to “DJ names”

  1. Jan Freeman Says:

    Mockingbird, not nightingale. Interesting swap.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Yikes. Now corrected. But I’m leaving your comment on the site because my error is a nice example of a semantic slip — but facilitated by the phonological properties of the words (same prosody, both beginning in a nasal, etc.).

  2. Jan Freeman Says:

    Yes, I thought of that, and also wondered if one of the nightingales populating English literature and poetry was lurking at the back of your mind. They’re much more literary than mockingbirds, after all.

  3. The drag news for linguists « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] writer goes on to list some favorite drag names (I mentioned a few here), including some phrasal overlap portmanteaus – Clare Booth Luce Change, Snow White Trash, […]

  4. Remarkable names | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] more playfully, as drag names, DJ names, roller derby names, or stripper names (all treated briefly here). That brings me to porn names, which I’ve talked about on other occasions (notably, in a […]

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