Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Lost Treasure of Piso Mojado

Three recent instances of noteworthy naming.

Moppetkill Grass

UCSB recently staged a control burn of its campus lagoon “island” — which is not an island at all, but that’s not the point of this post — in order to rid the landmass of a particular nonnative grass. Its name: ripgut brome. The weed earns scorn from preservationists for being a Mediterranean species that can easily overtake new climates and block out plants that had previously grown in these spots. It’s also hated by pet owners and sock enthusiasts for being a source of foxtails. However, I’d say its name alone would be reason enough for ripgut brome to be frowned upon. It’s a horrifically violent first name, followed by a sterile and imposing last name. I’m reminded of Homer Simpson’s words on the subject of crab grass: “There's nothing wrong with crab grass. It just has a bad name, that's all. Everyone would love it if it had a cute name like elf grass.”

Operation Lobster Fortnight Zingo

Reading a news article recently, I learned of an entity called Operation Joint Hammer, the U.S. component of a globe-spanning network of law enforcement agency that aims to stop child pornographers. Operation Joint Hammer is an amazing name for such a venture, as the joint part evokes the fact that this group is a single cog in a more complex machine, while the hammer brings to mind a definitive, physical smackdown of evil-doers. The same article, however, notes that the European component of this effort is named Operation Koala. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why it would adopt this name. I suppose it would be slightly more logical for the Australian portion of this effort to bear the name, and even then the cuddly, slow-moving connotations that anyone should make with the word koala seem to overshadow the group’s actually purpose. If anyone can explain where Operation Koala got its name, I’d like to hear it. All a Google search turned up was this, which seems to be space aliens traveling through paintings and which also doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything.

The Fury of Furies

Last week I suffered from a brief bout of geek amnesia that caused me to forgot the name of the woman who leads the Female Furies, a group of hard-hitting, tough-loving women who reside on the less-than-pleasant Apokolips in the DC comics universe. The leader, of course, is Granny Goodness, who’s entirely bad, of course. Looking on the Wikipedia page for the Female Furies, however, reminded me how amazing the members’ names are, as far as being ridiculous, punny and nonetheless appropriate things to call women whose chief personality characteristic is a proclivity toward violence. My favorites, in ascending order:
  • Stompa — see, because she’s on the heavy side.
  • Artemiz — and yes, the actual Artemis would go by that particular honorific tile.
  • Knockout — really, I can’t imagine how there hadn’t been a superhero or supervillain already named this.
  • Speed Queen — who, thankfully, is female.
  • Bernadeth — which is the best name for anyone ever. If I have a daughter, I’m naming her Bernadeth.
Nixed from the list: Mad Harriet and Alice Vundabar, just because they seem like near-riffs on Alice in Wonderland characters but just fall short.

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