You can call me Al

Yesterday, a posting on a mini-phal /mIni fæl/, a miniature Phalaenopsis (orchid). Which moved me to investigate names of the form /mIni Cæl/, for various consonants C: existing names and ones you can invent, using a /Cæl/ that’s an existing word (pal, gal), a clipping (phal for Phalaenopsis, Cal for California), a nickname (Cal for Calvin, Sal for Sally, Salvatore, or Salvador), or an acronym (HAL for hook and line, HAL for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer).

What follows is a mere sampling of such cases, not intended to be exhaustive.

On the title of this posting. From Wikipedia:

“You Can Call Me Al” is a song by the American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was the lead single from his seventh studio album, Graceland (1986), released on Warner Bros. Records. Written by Simon, its lyrics follow an individual seemingly experiencing a midlife crisis. Its lyrics were partially inspired by Simon’s trip to South Africa and experience with its culture.

You can watch the video here.

The song title has the nickname Al, short for Albert or Alfred, less often Alan, Alexander (Alex, Alec).  So of course we could have /mIni æl/, mini-Al ‘little Albert, Alfred,…’

Then: /mIni fæl/ is also available as a clipping of mini-phallus, referring to miniature carvings of phalluses. These are available in many stones (quartz, citrine, emerald, sodalite, agate, lapis lazuli) and are often quite pretty. Here’s a nice one (3 inches tall) in agate:


mini-phall would also be available as a synonym of micropenis ‘an unusually small penis’.

/mIni kæl/ was next up. Aside from the invented mini-Cal ‘little Calvin’, there’s a possible mini-Cal in which Cal is a clipping of California, referring not just to the state (as in SoCal and NorCal), but specifically to the University of California at Berkeley (as in the Big Game, Stanford vs. Cal). Given all that, a mini-Cal would be a junior college, or community college, counterpart to UCB.

That would be Berkeley City College. From Wikipedia:


Berkeley City College, one of California’s 112 community colleges, is located at 2050 Center Street in downtown Berkeley, in one of the world’s great education centers. In August 2006, the college moved to a newly constructed six-story, 165,000 square foot urban campus, only one-and-one-half blocks from the University of California at Berkeley. The college is part of the Peralta Community College District which includes College of Alameda, Laney and Merritt colleges.

BCC offers Associate degrees and Certificates in a number of areas.

Then /mIni gæl/, which could be an invented mini-gal ‘little lady’, but there’s an actually attested MiniGal, in which gal is a clipping of gallery. From the MiniGal website:

MiniGal is a series of dynamic PHP image galleries that aim to be simple, easy to use, good looking while still being free and open source.

So much for the velars /k g/. On to the bilabials /p b m/.

/mIni pæl/, that is, mini-pal ‘little friend’, in at least two attested usages, referring to a useful knife and a small doll.

From the Cold Steel company:


Mini Pal: Since the one inch long blade is razor sharp, it will open delicate packages and envelopes, cut rope or punch through heavy cartons with ease.

All three of these knives (which come in convenient pouches) are quite short. But useful.

And then the doll. From the company site:


Maru™ Mini Pal is a little darling standing tall at 13 inches! She is adorable and perfectly sized for girls of all ages. Her innocence and angelic beauty is only matched by her big personality that will continue to amaze us as we follow her story.
Maru™ Mini Pal is featured in her new candy-red taffeta dress, with a beautiful ribbed sash and bow, matching headband, textured white stockings, and black patent ballerina shoes!

/mIni bæl/. We could imagine a mini-Bal, a little Bal Harbour (as in Florida). But there’s an actually existing acronym. From a Univ. of Washington health site:

What is a Mini BAL? Mini or Blind BAL stands for bronchoalveolar lavage. It is described as blind (mini) because a bronchoscope or camera is not used to look at the lungs. A mini BAL is performed when someone suspects a patient has pneumonia.

/mIni mæl/. First, the actually attested case, Mini Mal, in which Mal is a clipping of Malibu (CA). From the Surf Science site:


The Bilbo ‘Torpedo’ 7’6 Mini Mal Surfboard in Red (top view, side view, bottom view)

The Mini Mal surfboard design, also known as the Funboard or Hybrid board, is a great universal surfboard. It was originally fashioned after the Malibu Surfboard. A mini-mal is similar to a longboard in shape but it’s a smaller version. A Mini Mal will range from 7’0″ to 8’6″ in length.

Then there’s French mal ‘sickness’, borrowed into English in (among other things) grand mal and petit mal seizures. From Wikipedia on the latter:

Absence seizures are one of several kinds of seizures. These seizures are sometimes referred to as petit mal [ /pɛti mæl/ ] seizures (from the French for “little illness”, a term dating from the late 18th century). Absence seizures are characterized by a brief loss and return of consciousness, generally not followed by a period of lethargy

A petit mal seizure might then be referred to as a mini-mal seizure.

Two more, with /s h/.

/mIni sæl/. Beyond the invented nickname mini-Sal ‘little Sally, Salvatore, Salvador’, there’s an attested clipping. From the Oasis Diagnostics site:

Oasis Diagnostics provides the Mini•SAL™ and Midi•SAL™ DNA isolation kits for superior extraction of high-quality genomic DNA from saliva and/or buccal cells.

/mIni hæl/. Possible inventions: mini-HAL (from 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer)); mini-Hal ‘little Henry, Harry, or Harold’.  And then there’ an attested acronym; from the EOD Gear site (dealing with Explosive Ordnance Disposal), a mini HAL (hook and line) kit.

One Response to “You can call me Al”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Confession time: When I saw the subject of your previous post, I expected it to be about phalluses.

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