Category:
Odd Names

Owen Smells and Mary Knows

In its July 5, 1943 issue, Time magazine noted the marriage in Pryor, Montana of Owen Smells and Mary Knows.

The marriage only lasted three years, but in that time they had a daughter, Theresa, who eventually married Joseph Rock Above and became Theresa Smells Rock Above.

Findagrave.com lists a grave for Owen Smells which may or may not be the same Owen that married Mary. I'm not sure. But the dates seem about right.

Helena Independent Record - Oct 1, 1946



Posted By: Alex - Thu Dec 08, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Odd Names, Marriage, 1940s

Mr Burger

Mr Burger, a Melbourne-based chain of hamburger restaurants, recently offered to give "free burgers for life" to anyone who would legally change their last name to "Burger." They specified that this meant seven burgers a week, for as long as the person maintained the name Burger. However, anyone whose last name already was Burger, was disqualified from getting the award.

But then the restaurant heard from the Government Solicitor's office (the agency responsible for processing name-change applications), informing them that it would not process any applications for people changing their name to "Burger" for the purpose of winning burgers, because such applications "are not in the spirit of the name-change process." So the competition was canned.

At least, that's the story Mr Burger is telling everyone. Perhaps the restaurant actually got cold feet, realizing too many people might have taken them up on their offer.

As far as last names go, Burger really isn't that bad. I might have done it, except I'm not interested in eating burgers every day for the rest of my life.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 02, 2016 - Comments (3)
Category: Contests, Races and Other Competitions, Odd Names, Junk Food

How Eleva Got Its Name

The story goes that Eleva, Wisconsin got its name due to an unfinished painting job. The town, founded in 1880, was originally called New Chicago. But in 1899 workmen partially painted the word "elevator" on the side of a new grain elevator by the railway track, but stopped because it got too cold, leaving just "Eleva." Railroad passengers assumed that was what the town was called, and eventually the name stuck.

Eleva's wikipedia page repeats the paint job story as the official history of the name, but in the references there's also a link to a 1908 reference book — A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways — and here we find a different history of the name:

Eleva, Trempeleau County, Wisconsin. This town was started in 1880 and was named by R.P. Goddard of Mondovi, Wisconsin, on the suggestion of Mr. Gates who formerly lived here. The origin of the name is unknown to Mr. Goddard, but he thinks Mr. Gates found a place of that name in France.

So I guess you can take your pick of which story you like better.

Mt. Vernon Register-News - Jan 21, 1964

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 08, 2016 - Comments (8)
Category: Odd Names

Name Change

July 1959: Upon becoming a U.S. citizen, Turkish-born Haroutioun A. Aprahamian changed his name to Haroutioun A. Abrahamian.

I know this got reported as weird news in the 1950s because it seemed like an odd twist on the phenomenon of immigrants Americanizing their names, but this guy probably just wanted to correct the spelling of his name which perhaps had been misspelled by an immigration official.

When my dad moved to the States from Germany in the 40s, our last name Böse got written as Boese, making it unpronounceable. My sister was smart enough to start spelling it as "Bose" from an early age (actually, whenever possible she insists it be spelled "Böse"), but I never did, so now I'm stuck with the unpronounceable spelling.

The Wilmington News Journal - July 11, 1959

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 27, 2016 - Comments (10)
Category: Odd Names, 1950s

How the AMC Building got its name, 1973

Warren Times-Mirror and Observer - Jan 15, 1973


ARMY ORIGINALITY — To boost morale, the Army Materiel Command recently held a contest to name its new national headquarters. More than 524 names were suggested, and the AMC's official Contest Committee to Name the New Building solemnly studied the offerings. At last, Maj. Gen. Charles T. Horner, the AMC chief of staff, announced with pride: "The name of the new AMC building is the AMC BUILDING." The lucky winner, Francis Sikorski, received $100 in appropriated monies for his shrewd suggestion.


The AMC Building - 5001 Eisenhower Ave. via Flickr.





I first encountered the story of how the AMC Building got its name in Chuck's 1989 News of the Weird book. Later, I also noticed it in National Lampoon's True Facts. So because I'm amusing myself over at about.com by telling the story of some classic weird news stories in more depth, I recently decided to try to find out if there were any more details to the AMC story. For instance, what other names were submitted in the contest? Were all the other entries so bad that the committee decided it had to choose the most obvious name possible? Or was this really just "army originality" at work.

But after a lot of digging, I've come up empty.

The story of the name-choosing contest is mentioned in the Army Materiel Command's own official history (pdf), published in 2013. So I contacted the AMC and asked them if they knew of any more details to the story. Their pr rep contacted the historians, who returned the answer that, no, that's all there is to the story. No other details survive. So we'll never know exactly why the "AMC Building" was the winning entry in the "Name the new AMC Building" contest.

But I can report that the AMC Building no longer houses the headquarters of the AMC. The AMC moved out of the Eisenhower Ave. building in 2002, relocating its headquarters first to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and later to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, where it currently can be found.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Nov 15, 2015 - Comments (12)
Category: Military, Odd Names, 1970s

Sleepy Eye, MN

image

image

[Click to enlarge text]

Wikipedia page here.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Oct 29, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Geography and Maps, Odd Names, Regionalism, North America, Native Americans

Business name causes controversy

Right in the middle of charming little St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin (population 2000), Geoff Gorres and his business partners opened a gun store. Their choice of name: F-Bomb Ordnance.

Local residents aren't too happy about it, thinking it lowers the standards of the community to have the f-bomb "displayed prominently" on Main Street.

In response to the controversy, the owner says he may be willing to consider other options for signage, but he's definitely keeping the f-bomb name. More info: CBS (WCCO); The Sun.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Aug 07, 2015 - Comments (5)
Category: Odd Names, Signage, Slang, Swears

The Fred Society

The FRED Society was founded in 1984, and still appears to be going strong. It's a kind of support group for people (mostly men) named Fred, designed to address the negative connotations associated with the name. That is, when people hear the name Fred, they tend to think of characters such as Fred Mertz (the bumbling neighbor on 'I Love Lucy') or Fred Flintstone. The Fred Society would like us to think of Fred Astaire instead.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jun 29, 2015 - Comments (6)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Odd Names

Criminals Named Christmas

There was Christmas Jones, sent to prison for debt in January 1815.

Christmas Allen (father and son), both charged with larceny.

And Christmas Crisp, who did six months for larceny in 1837. His son, Christmas Crisp Junior, appears to have been an honest man.

Perhaps being named Christmas was the 19th Century equivalent of having the middle name Wayne. [via Criminal Historian]

Posted By: Alex - Sat Dec 13, 2014 - Comments (3)
Category: Crime, Holidays, Odd Names, Nineteenth Century

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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