Archive for the ‘Names’ Category

Hang On Sloopy

May 21, 2017

On Friday, while Kim Darnell and I worked on moving plants and cleaning closets (not just routine spring cleaning, but a counter-offensive against a severe moth infestation — more on this in a later posting), for background I called up an iTunes playlist of dance music from the 50s through the 90s, which included “Hang On Sloopy”.

Now, Kim and I both have serious Ohio State connections, so we recognized the song as an OSU anthem, as played by TBDBITL, The Best Damn Band In The Land, aka the OSU Marching Band, which, like OSU football in general, is surrounded by a kind of frenzied irrational devotion. (When I lived in Columbus, I found this truly scary, since it led to crowds torching vehicles, smashing storefronts, and generally behaving like crazed hooligans,)

So Kim asked the obvious question: Who the hell is Sloopy?

We get that it’s a name, here used as an address term. But who is the Sloopy of the song, what do we know about them? And was there an actual Sloopy in the history of the song, or was the name just pulled out of a hat? And what kind of onomastic hat has Sloopy in it? (Related puzzle re: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” — though in this case, Rikki and Ricky are both reasonably frequent names.).

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Ruthie faces the unfamiliar, again

May 19, 2017

The One Big Happy in my comics feed today:

Rockefellers / rocky fellows. How was Ruthie to know her grandmother was using a proper name? And fellers is a familiar dialect variant for fellows – and an old one (Americans have been labeling feller an “impropriety” or “provincialism”, with an “excrescent” r, since at least 1795, according to DARE).

Ruthie undoubtedly also didn’t know that the Rockefeller family has long been seen as the richest family in the world, hence as the, um, gold standard of wealth. Which gives We’re no / not Rockefellers as an idiom meaning, roughly, ‘We’re not rich’.

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Special counsel appointed

May 19, 2017

Informed opinion has been very positive about the appointment of Mueller as special counsel to investigate allegations in the semolina affair. Commenters are generally agreed that Mueller is a respected authority in such matters, with a long public career in the field and experience in both semolina matters and the byzantine world of elbow-cheese casseroles.

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ice plants

May 16, 2017

… that is, plants in the Aizoaceae, or ice plant, family. On the occason of recent visits to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, where there’s a spread of gorgeous Lampranthus spectabilis (syn. Mesembryanthemum spectabile), trailing ice plant:

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(photo by Kim Darnell)

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Names in the comics

May 15, 2017

The One Big Happy in today’s comics feed:

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Ouch: Creighton Barrel / Crate & Barrel.

There’s quite a path in the history of Creighton as a first name. This will take us to probably the most famous person with first name Creighton, US Army General Creighton W. Abrams — and his son Creighton W. Abrams, a classmate of mine at Princeton.

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Blooming on the street

May 9, 2017

… on Ramona St., in front of the Ramona Townhouses. A little while back, it was the white calla lilies a few doors up the street from my place, but they have now collapsed to the ground, their bloom time over. Then, in the arches over the entrances to several of the units, a sign of spring: showy displays of yellow trumpet vine, growing amongst the ivy there; and in front of my unit, a spray of very pretty fancy pink geraniums (that is, pelargoniums).

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Mothers

May 9, 2017

I’ll start with Roz Chast’s cover art for the May 15th New Yorker, “Motherboard”, a droll celebration of Mothers Day in embroidery. With notes on uses of mother. From there to a sepia-toned mother and baby photo (more baby than mother) from 1965: mother Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, baby Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky. On the occasion of Ann’s birthday, today, May 9th; Ann would have been 80 today (but she died at 57). And then something celebratory: a lot of gorgeous foxgloves, a plant that Ann much liked; locally, they’re at their peak around the time of Ann’s birthday (and Mothers Day, which she detested; and Derby Day, which she loved).

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Closets

May 4, 2017

Two recent items focused on gay men in the closet, though in two quite different ways: Dominic Dunne (1925-2009), the subject of a recent biography (Money, Murder, and Dominick Dunne: A Life in Several Acts by Robert Hofler); and James Beard (1903-1985), the subject of a recent documentary film (America’s First Foodie: The Incredible Life of James Beard). Dunne, who died 40 years after Stonewall, nevertheless spent a lifetime cringing in the closet. Beard, who died only 15 years after Stonewall, was an exuberantly gay man to everyone who knew him, but his acquaintances and employers and the media built a protective closet around him, one that he decided to break out of publicly only at the end of his life — so that the world was robbed of an example of a gay man of great talent, living a rich, full life. (Dunne was, to my mind, no kind of model of how to live a life.)

For what it’s worth, neither man was flagrantly flamboyant, but I pegged them both the first time I saw them talking about their lives and work.

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From the FoxFiles

May 3, 2017

… of demented p.r. releases sent to Margalit Fox. On Facebook today:

Most, ah, arresting lede on any press release I’ve ever received: “I am a former incarcerated acid chemist. …”

Putting aside the question of the intended parsing of former incarcerated acid chemist (conveying, I assume, something like ‘acid chemist formerly incarcerated’), I focus on acid chemist, which has a straight sense — as in nucleic acid chemist ‘chemist who studies nucleic acids (like DNA and RNA) — and a high sense, as in this book title:

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where the acid in question is the psychedelic drug LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as simply as acid.

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The Gay Sisters

April 30, 2017

The title of a 1942 movie, which I came across by accident a while back:

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(That would be gay ‘light-hearted’, as in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay and The Gay Divorcee. Then there’s gay ‘showy’, as in the flower name gayfeather for Liatris spicata, or blazing star. One or the other of these lies behind the folk etymology in the surname (and then personal name) Gaylord < OFr. Gaillard, which is relevant to the movie. No queers for some years, at least in the general culture.)

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