Odd Names

The Adequate Wiring Bureau

Nowadays, to describe something as 'adequate' sounds like it's damning with faint praise. It doesn't come across a ringing endorsement. It's like getting a 'B' on a homework assignment instead of an 'A'. It's merely adequate, not great.

But evidently the word once had a much stronger positive association in general usage, as seen in the existence of the National Adequate Wiring Bureau. Many states also had their own Bureaus of Adequate Wiring. Their goal was to encourage homes to have proper, code-compliant electrical wiring.

As far as I can tell, the National Adequate Wiring Bureau came into existence as early as the 1890s, but there is no such thing today. By the 1970s, Adequate Wiring Bureaus had quietly begun to change their names, dropping the word 'adequate'.

It reminds me of the "Miss Typical" awards that used to be bestowed on young women. In today's culture, being typical or adequate no longer sounds like a compliment.

Brandon Times - Mar 12, 1953

I like this 1974 ad from the Adequate Wiring Bureau of Western New York, which used the idea of the sun suddenly going out, and the Earth being plunged into a freezing-cold apocalypse, as a way to promote the need for adequate wiring.

Wellsville Daily Reporter - Feb 13, 1974

Posted By: Alex - Sat Sep 28, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Languages, Odd Names, Public Utilities, Power Generation

How to become Rich ‘N Famous

Change your name, of course.

Mason City Globe-Gazette - Mar 31, 1981

As far as I can tell, Thomas Clark Twyman never did live up to his changed name. Actually, it’s not even an original gag. I found several musicians (such as the one below, from Australia) calling themselves Rich N. Famous.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Apr 09, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Odd Names, 1980s

Stedman Whitwell’s Rational System of Nomenclature

Back in the 19th century, English architect Stedman Whitwell decided that there must be a way to name cities and towns that could not only provide a unique name but also convey geographic information. His idea, as described by George Browning Lockwood in The New Harmony Communities (1902):

Whitwell noted some of the incongruities in American nomenclature, and deplored the repetition which was producing “Washingtons” and “Springfields” in every state in the Union. He proposed to give each locality a distinctive name by expressing in a compound word the latitude and longitude of the place, thus enabling one to locate any community geographically when the name was once known. Letters were proposed as substitutes for the numerals used in expressing latitude and longitude, as follows:

The first part of the town name expressed the latitude, the second the longitude, by a substitution of letters for figures according to the above table. The letter “S” inserted in the latitude name denoted that it was south latitude, its absence that it was north, while “V” indicated west longitude, its absence east longitude.

Extensive rules for pronunciation and for overcoming various difficulties were given. According to this system, Feiba Peveli indicated 38.11 N., 81.53 W. Macluria, 38.12 N., 87.52 W., was to be called Ipad Evenle; New Harmony, 38.11 N., 87.55 W., Ipba Veinul; New Yellow Springs, Green county, Ohio, the location of an Owenite community, 39.48 N., 83.52 W., Irap Evifle; Valley Forge, near Philadelphia, where there was another branch community, 40.7 N., 75.25 W., Outeon Eveldo; Orbiston, 55.34 N., 4.3 W., Uhi Ovouti; New York, Otke Notive; Pittsburg, Otfu Veitoup; Washington, Feili Neivul; London, Lafa Vovutu.

The principal argument in favor of the new system presented by the author was that the name of a neighboring Indian chief, “Occoneocoglecococachecachecodungo,” was even worse than some of the effects produced by this “rational system” of nomenclature.

I think the chart above is slightly misleading, as it implies that the top line is for latitude and the bottom for longitude. But if you look at the names Whitwell was coming up with, it's clear that this wasn't the case. It seems, instead, that one had to choose whether to start the name with a vowel (top line) or consonant (bottom line).

If I've understood his system correctly, then the 'rational' name for San Diego (32.71 N, 117.16 W) could be Fena Baveeby. And Los Angeles (34.05 N, 118.24 W) could be Fotu Avapek.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 20, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Geography and Maps, Odd Names, Nineteenth Century

Pho Keene Great

For some reason, the city of Keene, New Hampshire is objecting to a Vietnamese restaurant's plan to call itself Pho Keene Great.

More info:

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 04, 2019 - Comments (8)
Category: Innuendo, Double Entendres, Symbolism, Nudge-Nudge-Wink-Wink and Subliminal Messages, Odd Names

Bus Starts

Back in 1985, city officials in St. Louis decided that the term 'bus stop' sounded too negative, so they voted to rename them 'bus starts.' 1800 new 'bus start' signs were duly installed.

A year-and-a-half later, when it became clear that people were confused by what a 'bus start' was supposed to be, the city conceded defeat and went back to using the traditional term. This, of course, meant buying even more new signs.

St. Louis Post Dispatch - Mar 28, 1985

St. Louis Post Dispatch - Aug 24, 1986

Posted By: Alex - Tue Nov 06, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Odd Names, 1980s, Bus

The Initials Effect

Found by psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld. The effect is that if the initials of your name spell out something positive (such as J.O.Y. or G.O.D.) you'll likely live longer than someone whose initials spell out something negative (B.A.D. or A.S.S.).

From his article in the Journal of Psychomatic Research (Sep 1999):

One's attitude about oneself, and the treatment one receives from others, might be affected, in some small but measurable way, by stigmatic or salutary labeling due to one's name. If names affect attitudes and attitudes affect longevity, then individuals with “positive” initials (e.g., A.C.E., V.I.P.) might live longer than those with “negative” initials (e.g., P.I.G., D.I.E.). Using California death certificates, 1969–1995, we isolated 2287 male decedents with “negative” initials and 1200 with “positive” initials. Males with positive initials live 4.48 years longer (p<0.0001), whereas males with negative initials die 2.80 years younger (p<0.0001) than matched controls. The longevity effects are smaller for females, with an increase of 3.36 years for the positive group (p<0.0001) and no decrease for the negative. Positive initials are associated with shifts away from causes of death with obvious psychological components (such as suicides and accidents), whereas negative initials are associated with shifts toward these causes. However, nearly all disease categories display an increase in longevity for the positive group and a decrease for the negative group. These findings cannot be explained by the effects of death cohort artifacts, gender, race, year of death, socioeconomic status, or parental neglect.

San Francisco Examiner - Mar 28, 1998

Posted By: Alex - Wed Sep 05, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Odd Names, Science, Psychology

Hello, my name is Abcde

Apparently it's an increasingly popular girl's name. From

The name garnered attention after a story about a seven-year-old girl with autism, called Abcde Santos (pronounced, "ab-suh-dee"), hit US news in 2014. Abcde of California was turned away by Santa Claus after waiting in line because he was scared of her service dog, a pit bull, CNN reported at the time.
Vocativ subsequently uncovered that there were 328 girls in the US with this unusual moniker. 328!

Posted By: Alex - Thu Aug 09, 2018 - Comments (6)
Category: Odd Names

Creap Creamer

It's one of the most famous examples of a Japanese product with a weird English name.

The name is a portmanteau of 'creaming powder.' When the marketing team came up with the name back in 1960, they evidently didn't realize about the word 'creep.' Or maybe they figured that few Japanese consumers would know what a creep was.

The way the company discusses the product on the product website results in some (presumably) unintentional humor: "This creap comes in a light, convenient plastic bottle... This creap comes in a light, small plastic bottle."

More info: You Don’t Know, Creap! 3 Odd Facts About Japan’s Awkwardly Named Coffee Creamer

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jun 23, 2018 - Comments (2)
Category: Odd Names, Products

Cat’s Phee on a Gooseberry Bush

Wikipedia cites a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called "Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush" as an example of "wine humour." The site notes, "Humour is usually rare in the world of wine, and wine jokes may only be amusing to wine obsessives."

Apparently the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms didn't find the name amusing. They forced the maker of the wine to change the name of the U.S. import version to "Cat's Phee on a Gooseberry Bush," which doesn't even make sense.

The 'cat's pee' in the name was a reference to the fact that Sauvignon Blancs are occasionally known to have that scent.

Text from, Drink This: Wine Made Simple by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jun 15, 2018 - Comments (3)
Category: Odd Names, Alcohol

Lota Cheek

Apparently Lota Cheek was her real name.

She was the daughter of Georgia farmer Leon Cheek. After winning a beauty contest in 1921, in which she was declared America's prettiest girl, she became a successful actress in New York City. In 1922, she was involved in a scandalous divorce case (her husband was simultaneously married to another woman). By 1925, she had remarried and took the name of her new husband, Sanders. The last record I can find of her is from 1927, when she was featured in an ad for Colgate toothpaste.

Wilmington Morning News - Jun 15, 1922

Baltimore Sun - Dec 8, 1927

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 30, 2018 - Comments (2)
Category: Odd Names, 1920s, Actors

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