My latest article for The Week is actually one I wrote a few months ago. We decided to keep it in reserve until another mass shooting brought the topic into the news again. Sadly, we knew that it would happen. And it did. Here’s a piece on that thing that people say as a substitute for doing anything effective:
How ‘thoughts and prayers’ became the stock phrase of tragedies
My latest article for The Week is in honour of Walter Becker, guitarist for Steely Dan, who died recently. It’s about bands like Steely Dan: ones that have names that make you think they’re the name of one of the guys in the band.
11 band names that don’t mean what you think they do
And when you’re done reading that, here are four honourable mentions that didn’t make it into the final version:
The hit electro-group from the ’80s (and on) probably haven’t ever had anyone ask, “Which one is Duran?” But they’re named after a fictional character: Doctor Durand Durand, from the movie Barbarella.
The Ramones, great punk pioneers of the 1970s and later, did not have any members whose real last name was Ramone, nor were any members related to each other. But they all took stage names with the last name Ramone, starting with founding member Douglas Colvin, who called himself Dee Dee Ramone, inspired by Paul McCartney’s one-time use of the pseudonym Paul Ramon.
Alice Cooper is now the name of the shock-rocker born as Vincent Damon Furnier. But it was first the name of a band he sang with. When the brand broke up, he kept the name. Their — and his — namesake was an 18th-century witch who was burned at the stake.
Anonymous 4 is one of the world’s great medieval and folk music quartets. Its members aren’t anonymous; the four women with the ethereal voices are Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Ruth Cunningham, and Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek (Johanna Maria Rose was an original member; Horner-Kwiatek joined later). But, like many classical music ensembles, the group is actually named after a real person: Anonymous IV was the author of an important medieval treatise on music — an author whose name is lost to the ages, so he was later designated Anonymous IV (because Anonymous I, II, and III were already in use).
Oh… and there’s this line in a Pink Floyd song (click on it and it will take you to the line):
Posted in The Week
Tagged Alice Cooper, Anonymous 4, Dr. Hook, Duran Duran, Jethro Tull, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Monty Python, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, The Ramones, The Smiths, The Week, Uriah Heep, Veruca Salt
A while back, I did an article for The Week on the grammar of the Incredible Hulk. My producer at the week thought it would make a fun podcast, so she trimmed it a bit, I recorded it, she edited it with some other clips, and now you can listen to it:
A linguist’s guide to HULK SMASH
A couple of years ago, I did an article on beatboxing for The Week – how much of it is made of tweaked-up speech sounds. We’ve dug it up and turned it into a podcast now. If you have seven minutes and are curious, give it a listen:
A phonological description of beatbox noises
My last article for The Week was on words we got from Arabic. This time it’s words we got from Hebrew and Yiddish. You’ll probably know about some of these. You’ll probably be surprised by some others.
15 English words you probably didn’t know came from Hebrew and Yiddish
My latest article for The Week is on words that English got from Arabic. We’ve taken more than you might think, but I look at just 15… including some that you probably can’t go very long without.
15 English words we stole from Arabic
(PS Let me remind you that the magazine writes the title after I’ve written the article and sent it to them.)