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Posts Tagged ‘names’

Them Apples

November 18, 2014 | by

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An illustration by Philip Dadd for P. G. Wodehouse’s William Tell Told Again, 1904.

According to legend, it was on November 18, 1307, that the Swiss patriot William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head. After refusing to pay homage to a Hapsburg liege, Tell was forced to submit to the test of marksmanship. Later, Tell killed the tyrant and went on to many a daring exploit in the service of the Old Swiss Confederacy.

Although the William Tell legend is mentioned in books dating back to the late fifteenth century—and one can find similar marksmanship myths throughout the world—it was Schiller’s highly politicized play that canonized the apple-centric version, and, buoyed by Switzerland’s post-Napoleonic patriotism, made the archer iconic. Schiller had never visited Switzerland; he got the idea from his friend Goethe, who returned from a trip bearing tales of local lore. In 1804, the play premiered at Weimar under Goethe’s direction. (The popular Rossini opera—and the resulting Lone Ranger theme—was based on the play.)

Although a part of the German dramatic canon (and initially a Nazi favorite), the play came into disfavor with Hitler. After a 1941 assassination attempt by a Swiss-born activist, the Führer banned William Tell, reportedly lamenting, “Of all people Schiller had to glorify this Swiss sniper.” Read More »

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The Soul of Wit

November 14, 2014 | by

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Photo: Carpe Donut NYC

While contemplating the purchase of a hot-cider doughnut at the aptly named Carpe Donut truck, one finds oneself thinking about food-truck names. Many have; it is one of the consolations of modernity that we live in the golden age of food-truck nomenclature. Or at least the first age.

Anyone who has worked in a business district or watched an episode of Street Eats knows it’s not enough to have a truck and a grill: your name should ideally be gimmicky, fun, and filled with attitude, to underlie the anarchic spirit of the whole enterprise. Sexual innuendo is of course desirable. Puns are a plus. In the words of an academic with whom I once spent a tedious dinner, “Language informs consciousness: we know this.”

But did you know that there is a food-truck-name generator? Of course there is. (I have no knack for it; my key words—scampering, spinster, maple—were apparently not sufficiently cheeky, even after I added sullen to the mix for extra attitude.) But then, I didn’t really need it; I already have the perfect name. Ogden Nosh. We’ll sell franks, but of course, they’ll be called Doggerels. The way some fast-food chains give their customers discreet Bible verses on the bottoms of cups, we’ll force-feed our patrons nonsense verses. And, naturally, on the side of the truck will be written the following: “A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.”

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Strong Names

September 8, 2014 | by

Sometimes you go to Wikipedia to see whose birthday it is and you end up spending the next thirty minutes reading flap copy from old Harlequin romances. By “you” I mean me, here—I’ve just now crawled up out of the Jane Arbor mineshaft I fell into.

Arbor, who was, yes, born today in 1903, wrote fifty-seven romance novels in her day, all of them published by Mills & Boon, a UK imprint of Harlequin. Even without their florid illustrations, their titles are terrific; they sound variously like managerial concepts, short-lived sitcoms, or Yankee Candle scents. In addition to those in the slideshow above, here are a few favorites:

  • Ladder of Understanding (1949)
  • My Surgeon Neighbor (1950)
  • Memory Serves My Love (1952)
  • Jasmine Harvest (1963)
  • The Feathered Shaft (1970)
  • Two Pins in a Fountain (1977)

But Arbor’s true talent was in naming her characters, a gift that extended to the author herself. Jane Arbor is a pseudonym—and a pretty perfect one, dainty without lacking in heft and authority—for the comparatively ungainly Eileen Norah Owbridge. Arbor had a knack for naming her heroines’ love interests, all of whom have strong but subtle appellations of three or four syllables. They’re impossibly perfect names that seem hewn from granite, as are, presumably, the abdomens of the men they belong to. Names like Erie Nash. Dale Ransome. Elyot Vance. Lewis Craig. Mark Triton. Raoul Leduc. Grandmere Cordet. You see how a Piepenbring could be envious.

Without further prologue, then: the flap copy for three of Arbor’s novels. Read More »

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A Horse Named Paris Review

June 7, 2014 | by

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Go baby go!

With the Belmont Stakes upon us, today is an apt day to revisit a our Spring 1976 issue, in which George Plimpton made an astonishing equine discovery:

This office received a letter from an English writer who reported that at the racetrack he had put a fiver on a horse named Paris Review … We have looked into the matter. Paris Review, a chestnut with a handsome star on his forehead, was born in 1972 in the U.S.A. (by Noholme II out of Pride of Paris), bought by John Hay Whitney’s Greentree Stables at the Saratoga Stakes, and named by Mr. Whitney soon after.

Paris Review, pictured above, may never have enjoyed the cultural primacy of your California Chromes, your Secretariats, or even your Mister Eds—maybe it was that missing definite article holding him back—but he had his day in the sun. In his second year, he won, placed, and showed in a series of races in England. After that, he was bought as a stud and sent to Australia, where presumably he had a lot of fun.

Plimpton closes the piece by “passing on to the Australians a few suggestions of titles of poems and stories ‘out of’ the literary Paris Review which could be applied to Paris Review’s offspring”:

Looking Backward; Last Comes the Raven; Ho Ho Ho Caribou; Phenomenal Feelings; Travel Dust; Chest of Energy; The Flying Fix (!); Mister Horse. If there were not a limit imposed by the Racing Commission on the number of letters possible in a horse’s name, we would offer these two poem titles, Going Downtown to Buy Some Pills, and (our favorite) Nimble Rays of Day Bring Oxygen to the Blood.

Read the essay here, and gamble responsibly this evening.

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Down to the Wireless

April 23, 2014 | by

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Mike Licht, Women of Wi-Fi, after Caillebotte. Image via Flickr

Someone in my building—or maybe two different people, I don’t know—rejoices in cruel, taunting names for his wireless networks: “MineNotYours” and “NoFreeLunch.” “I’m just going to go out on a limb here,” my old boyfriend once said, “and speculate that this person is an asshole.”

But is he? Riding in the elevator or passing neighbors in the hall, I often wonder who it might be—the retired nurse upstairs? The mild-mannered gentleman with the rescue dogs? The 103-year-old who sits with her nurse in the lobby? Does someone have a small, secret life as a righteous, anonymous enforcer? Read More »

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Bookish Cakes, and Other News

March 4, 2013 | by

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  • Happy Monday. Here are some cakes inspired by books!
  • Nineteen Charles Bukowski drawings have come to light; most of them illustrated his column for the Los Angeles Free Press.
  • A poem written by a thirteen-year-old Charlotte Brontë is expected to fetch at least £40,000 at auction.
  • “If there has ever been a golden age for the unconventionally named author, it is now.” Bylines in the age of Google.
  • The 2013 Tournament of Books is on.
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