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You called it what?!

  • Mar 2, 2011
Sometimes, you've just got to wonder what motivates the naming of stuff.
I Spit on Your Corpse, I Piss on Your Grave
I once saw somebody in a video store pick up "Snakes on a Plane" and say "I wonder what that's about?" Director Eric Stanze decided to deal with this serious marketing problem for films by stating up-front what would be featured in his 2001 escape from whatever mental asylum was having a holiday weekend, and quickly established that:

1. There will be spitting on your corpse;
2. There will be pissing on your grave.

No mention of defecation of course, in case that's just plain impolite. Needless to say, if there were an Oscar for Best Corpse Spitting and Grave Pissing, Stanze would surely at least be nominated (though The King's Speech would have won it anyway).
Cooking With Pooh
There's not much you can say about Cooking With Pooh other than I haven't tried it, though if my meal at the Elephant Bar the other night is anything to go by, I've gotten fairly close to eating it.

It's a mystery that this got passed any publisher's desk at the spec stage. I can imagine the pitch:

I've got three ideas for things you can do with Pooh - cooking with, playing tennis with, and defeating Al Quada with.

The first one. The other two are just crazy.

It's written by Mouse Works, which sounds more like a statement of fact than an author.
I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Thankfully this ingenious little name didn't spark a trend or we'd have had:

- "Holy crap this is peanut butter. This is peanut butter?"
- "What the f*** is wrong with this fork that looks like a sharp spoon?"
- "I'm telling you these are cheese crackers and I'll punch anyone in the face who says otherwise."

It's one of those product names that's quite amusing the first time around, raises a slight smile the second, and once you end up shopping for it every week just wish it were called something else.

Interestingly enough, it did spawn a Taiwanese knock-off Unbelievable. This is not butter, which seems to have missed the grammatical idiosyncrasies of the original.

Kids Exchange
You know what four year olds are like - one minute they're playing with Dora the Explorer, the next they're wanting to change their gender before the P F Chang's Happy Hour. Oh wait, no - P F Chang's stopped their good Happy Hour.

Needless to say, Kids Exchange should fire their graphics department. (There's a list of other terrible logos here).

Not to be confused with the kangaroo land down-under, there's nothing too bad about being called Austria. But some of the people naming the towns could have done a better job.

The next time somebody tells you they're going to F***ing Austria, it's apparently not because they don't like it.

Tanya Grotter
The hero is an orphan with a birthmark on her face with magical powers who was brought up by a Lopukhoid after her parents were killed by the evil sorceress Chuma-del-Tort and goes to study at the Tibidokhs School for the Behaviorally-Challenged Young Witches and Wizards. Hmmm... how about I call her Mary Kotter. Or Larry Notter? Or Tanya Grotter?

Tanya Grotter is of course the now-famous Russian knock-off of that popular fantasy series that's not Lord of the Rings. Ripping off an author's work is pretty low - and very common. What's less common is to then name the series with a title that sounds pretty much the same as the original. That sense of bald-faced shame is probably what the writers of The Roommate were feeling when they thought we'd all forgotten about Single White Female. 

There are several lessons to be learned, the major one being something to do with international copyright, blah blah blah.

If you're ever driven from Los Angeles to Vegas,  there are 5 essential steps to the journey:

1. "Wow, we escaped from LA and missed the traffic."
2. "I'm running out of gas, let's stop in Barstow at that weird gas station."
3. "WTF? That sign just said Zzzz or something? Turn around!"
4. "I think I see the strip! Oh wait, that's Terrible's."
5. "Damn. The traffic here is worse than LA!"

Out of the 5 steps to Vegas, number 3 is the most entertaining and upon further research I have discovered that  is a real town. The real history of the town name is boring, so I instead have decided it's because:
  • The Mayor submitted a name-change for the the town while he was drunk and/or stoned. 
  • As part of recent tax changes, towns have to pay a "vowel surcharge".
  • There was a bet to see who would appear at the end of the phonebook.

How to Shit in the Woods, Second Edition: An
There are several notable things about this title's Amazon page:

- This is a Second edition. I can't imagine what they found was missing in the first attempt but they missed the obvious comedic punchline of calling it the "Number 2" version.
- There's a section that allows me to urge the publisher to release it on Kindle. You know, because I'm all web 2.0 whenever I'm in the woods.
- One of the less positive reviews complained: "This book is OK but does not contain any new or different information" Moans the reader: "It was not what I expected"

I thought that after 33 years of handling basic biological functions that I knew everything there was to know about 'dropping the kids off at the pool'. But I'm willing to bet that the popularity of this book is down to one fact: it's 200 pages of blank paper, which is useful when - you know - you're in the woods.
Criticizing children's names is like criticizing somebody's driving - you may be completely correct but the intended target will hate you.

In the US, we have a long history of giving children terrible names, especially if the parents are celebrities. Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow never considered that their son, Apple Martin, would be just a vowel short of one of New York's favorite cocktails. Even the ordinarily rational Penn Jillette decided to inflict his kid with the name "Moxie Crimefighter".

One disgruntled English bank customer took the whole name thing one step further:

After being charged £20 for a £10 overdraft, 30-year-old Michael Howard of Leeds changed his name by deed poll to “Yorkshire Bank PLC Are Fascist Bastards”. The bank has now asked him to close his account, and Mr. Bastards has asked them to repay the 69p balance, by cheque, made out in his new name. (The Guardian)

But in Sweden, a court ruled that a couple could not name their baby "Q", which seems patently unreasonable in the international context. Especially since every time I go to Ikea to buy a pack of bulbs or a desk lamp, my receipt has "En mycket tråkig blå skrivbordslampa utan lampa" and I have no hope of knowing what the hell that means 2 minutes after leaving the store. In this context, I'm thinking Q should have been allowed.

What did you think of this list?

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March 04, 2011
Hilarious list, James! #4 and #5 made my day lol....not because they exist but, by their mere existence they lend to needed bouts of laughter. I've always wondered about #7 every single time I passed it- I like the drunken bet for last listing in the phone book!
March 04, 2011
Thanks! This list kind of morphed from one thing to another became something I didn't intend, so hopefully it raises a few smiles. If it doesn't, I'm moving to Zzyzx :-)
March 03, 2011
Oh man.... And OMG AT #4!!!! I've never noticed that before. Not only was it a bad name to begin with, but then to put a visual like that out there.... Yes, whoever designed it needs to be fired. I can't help but wonder if they were in on it because it looks so obvious. And very interesting about #9. I've never even thought of Apple Martini :P Thanks for sharing this hilarious list!
March 03, 2011
Thanks! I can see how the Kids Exchange slipped through. It reminds me of a friend who was a therapist, but the letter spacing on his business card was just *slightly* off so it looked like "The rapist". Whoops.
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