Dashiell Hammett: A Hard-boiled Tale

The flask was halfway to my mouth, one for the road. Then a hesitant rap on the glass told me I wouldn’t be leaving early. I guessed it was some high class dame with long fingers. I took a swig then popped the flask into the top drawer.

“It’s open.”

As she stepped in, I saw that I was right. A wave of raven hair hid one eye. The brim of a fancy hat hid the other. She had a mouth that might light up a ballroom with a smile. But she wasn’t smiling.

“I’m looking for a man with a name like a suit of cards.”

“Billy Heart? Joe Diamond? Jack Club? Sam Spade? Take your pick.”

“The last one.”


“Well, you got the address right. Anything else I can do, or is your mission complete?”

“I’m told you get things done.”

“Getting things done is easy. It’s getting them done right that’s tough. Have a seat?”

She did, flashing one long leg as it went over the other. “May I smoke?”

I nodded. Her cigarette case and lighter gleamed in the day’s dying light.

“Unless it’s diamonds, I’m guessing your name doesn’t have anything to do with cards.”

“It depends what kind of deck you’re using.” She exhaled. Smoke transfigured her like a little heaven. “I’m Amber.”

“Not any deck I know. How can I be of service, Ms. Amber?”

“Amb, please. I . . . I need a funny name.”

“Sam Spade not good enough for you?”

“It might be, if the first name weren’t so ordinary. No offense of course, Mr. Spade.”

I shrugged. “None taken. And this name is for . . .”

“Friends. They . . . collect them. I used to help. Then things got hectic . . . I dropped out. It weighs on me. Sometimes I don’t sleep. Do you know what that’s like, Mr. Spade?”

“Insomnia’s an old friend of mine. So’s falling asleep at the wheel.”

Her smile started to catch. “Then you understand my predicament. Can you help?”

I opened the bottom drawer. “I have some names that might interest you. For starters, a mystery writer. Virtually invented the hard-boiled genre. Served in both World Wars. Got the attention of HUAC in the 50s. Did time.”

Funnier than Sam Spade?

Funnier than Sam Spade?

“An idealist.”

“Depends how you look at it. Anti-Nazi until Hitler and Stalin were buddies. Then anti-Nazi again when they weren’t any more. A little fickle for an idealist, don’t you think?”

“Confusing times. Like Streisand in The Way We Were. How did he end up?”

“Not well. A sick, old shell of a man. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t even keep his house clean.”

“Sad. Poetic. Even romantic.” She was pensive. “And the name, Mr. Spade. Is it . . . funny?”

I handed her the file. “Maybe funnier than Sam Spade. You be the judge.”

“Thank you, Mr. Spade.” She stood. “If this answers my needs you’ll be compensated . . . handsomely.” She left, and the door closed softly behind her.

It felt like we would be meeting again before long.

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Funny Names in the News Vol. 108 with Mashpee, Tootoo Magic, Earl Sweatshirt

Welcome to another edition of Funny Names in the News, our weekly-ish feature where we read the news, spot amusing and unusual names, and then tell you about them. What a concept it is!

We start in boxing, where our resident fisticuffs expert Dave tells us, that [Dave’s edit:the absolutely amazing!!!!! seriously, she’s amazing and is already an Olympic gold medalist] Claressa Shields of Flint, Michigan beat Yenebier Guillen Benitez of the Dominican Republic in the women’s middleweight finals of the Pan American games last Friday. That makes her the first American woman to win boxing gold at the Pan Am games.

Hooray for Claressa!

Earl Sweatshirt, pictured not wearing a sweatshirt.

Earl Sweatshirt, pictured not wearing a sweatshirt.

Elsewhere in sports, we have this probing question from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation : Is Atiqtalaaq Uuttuvak the next Jordin Tootoo?

I know, it’s great.  In case you’re “out of the loop” on Northern Canadian sporting matters, Tootoo (who naturally wears the number #22 on his jersey) was the first person born in the distant Nunavut territory to play in the NHL. Uuttuvak, who goes by just “Q” to make it easier for everyone, aims to follow in his footsteps, and the 9-year-old is playing against older opponents in Europe this summer to get his game going. His father Sheutiapik Peter says the young Atiqtalaaq (thanks copy-paste) is “a modest team player” . We think he’s a winner already.

Moving on to film, and the delightful news that longtime Martin Scorsese collaborator and film editor Thelma Schoonmaker is among the five people being honored by the Directors Guild of America this October in a ceremony in New York. In honor of her work in editing Scorsese pictures, she’ll cut her speech down to 3 manic hours of swearing, hitting attendees with baseball bats, and eating dinner with Marty’s mom.

Fiddler Tootoo Glory Bump

Jordin Tootoo high-fiving teammate Vernon Fiddler (seriously) to celebrate the glory of Nunavut.

Elsewhere, into slightly upsetting news. The rapper Earl Sweatshirt is considering changing his rap name. Don’t do it, Earl!

And finally, the town of Falmouth, MA is going to be new steward of the Nobska Lighthouse. Co-President of the Woods Hole Community Association, Catherine O. Bumpus, made the announcement earlier in the week. Falmouth is of course found in Barnstable County, right there next to Sandwich, Mashpee, and Buzzards Bay counties. Gotta get out there at some point and take pictures of all the great signage they must have.







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Carew Papritz, Cowboy Author

There comes a time in every funny names aficionado’s life when you come across a person so well named, so compelling named you need to talk about it. This is one of those times.

I’m sitting in the Writer’s Cafe at a writer’s conference doing the “writerly-thing”—figuring out what session I’m attending next. Halfway down the the page, a session called “How Do I sell a Million Books and Never Leave the Author’s Cave?”

Score, I’m all over it.

Then I see the presenter’s name.

Meet Carew (pronounced cah-roo´) Papritz author of “The Legacy Letters” and a bona fide cowboy to boot. He’s no Alfalfa Desperado.

Carew introduced himself as a renaissance man in an age that lauds specialist. Wearing a cowboy hat, vest, large belt buckle on his blue jeans and cowboy boots, he spoke to our writerly souls—addressing a group of writers, an audience separated by large amounts of space like sage brush on the rolling prairie. Those of us hiding in the cave. Those of us creating our novels. Those of us rarely seeing the light of day. And he explained how to sell it—the stories, all while being an introvert. (Except I’m not an introvert).

Larger than life cowboy author, Carew Papritz. Okay maybe it's because I'm not that tall.

Larger-than-life cowboy author, Carew Papritz. Okay maybe it’s because I’m not that tall.

He published his first book at age 21, an editorial cartoon anthology. By 23, he published his second cartoon anthology. Both became best sellers. Then his writing career took a hiatus.

He spent time traveling the world, worked in Hollywood, escaped Hollywood, traveled to his grandfather’s remote ranch in southern Arizona, embarking on his career as a cowboy.

While sitting on the back of a pick-up truck on the open range, he composed the story that would become The Legacy Letters.

As with all twists of fate, a friend of his couldn’t guide a tourist-filled trail ride, so he subbed in . . . wrangling his future bride.

His charismatic persona created opportunities for him. A book signing with the Naked Cowboy singing in Time Square. A book signing and interview on top of a volcano: Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. And the first ever book signing on horse back—the horse he married his wife on.

But that’s not all. In an era where 80 percent of all books bought in this country are romance novels purchased by women, he was invited to speak at the Romance Writer’s of America conference in New Jersey.

A cowboy set loose among hundreds of romance writers? Put on your spurs ladies you’re in for the ride of your life.

Dozens of ladies enjoyed his roping exploits. I want to read some of the scenes that moment inspired. ;)

See you on the dusty trail, buckaroos.

Tracy — Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

P.S. To the members of the Horsey Award Committee. Can we add a category for “Best Named Cowboy” this year? Not that I’m hinting or anything. :D

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Where’s the Money, Lebowski? Let These Funny Named Economists Tell Us

There’s lots of talk in the news about economic matters these days. There’s the Greek crisis, which in my personal life is the term for the disappointingly short weekend hours of my local gyro place. There’s always “the economy, stupid” when elections come around.

So we at the Blog of Funny Names wanted to get in on some of that sexy economy talk.

Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about economics, especially not how the local donut shop stays open while selling their pastries at 25c a piece. What we do know is funny, strange, and amusing names, and we’ve scoured through every economics textbook written in the last four hundred years to find the best names of the field for this article*.

Ludwig Bamberger

Bamberger was a notable figure in the German economic circles of the mid and late 1800s, co-founding Deustche Bank and acting as the leading financial and economic authority in the country. He is also the origin of the term “wigging out”,  referring to him always losing it when the quarterly projections came in “totally out of wack”, as economist like to say.*

Beardo Bill

Bamberger should get some credit for pointing the German banking system to the direction where they eventually decided to put this dude on their 1000 mark bill.

Orley Ashenfelter

This San Francisco born economist is currently a professor at Princeton University, and a winner of the presumably prestigious Jacob Mincer award. In a potentially wise career move, he has also recently become the President of the American Association of Wine Economists and editor of the Journal of Wine Economics. I too, recall studying wine economics in university by comparing the alcohol content and price of various bottles most Friday nights for the most potency for your buck.** It’s a noble life.

Price V. Fishback

Mr. Price Van Meter Fishback clearly has the best name in the business, but he’s also a very influential economic historian. His contributions to cliometrics have been widely praised by the Cliometric Society. Cliometrics, in case you’re wondering, is just a cryptic way of saying “the study of history of economics”. It does sound much more interesting than cliometrics, doesn’t it? It’s like calling Iowan corn price index research redenbachmetrics.

Norton Garfinkle

Norton Garfinkle, in addition to his work in economics, seems to have had an extraordinarily successful career founding and working with companies that have the most generic names imaginable, and then selling them to other giant generically named companies.

For instance, his Advanced Retail Marketing Corporation was sold to News Corporation in 1996. He also founded or served as chairman of Brand Rating Research CorporationElectronic Retailing Systems, and Oral Research Laboratories. Hey, can’t knock it when it works. I’m off to work on my Silicon Valley startup, Computer Internet System Company Incorporated.

A farmhouse in Alberta, earlier.

A farmhouse in Alberta, earlier.

Myrna Wooders

This economist from rural Alberta, Canada has a very entertaining Wikipedia page. For instance, it says that Ms. Wooders, who teaches economics at Vanderbilt University, currently lives “in Nashville, Tennessee, with her plants”. We do not learn more about these plants, but let’s hope there are some money trees in there. We also learn that she’s made great contributions to game theory, public economic theory and network theory. However, we learn more about her efforts shoveling snow on her Alberta farm at age 9 than any of those topics. I for one appreciate the thorough biography.

This concludes our economist roundup, stay tuned for more grand names coming up!

*This may or may not be true.
**This is definitely true.
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T.J. Oshie and Libby Lu, his biggest (and tiniest) hockey super-fan

TJ Oshie... that's one kind-looking guy, but you'll like him more and more as the story develops...

TJ Oshie… that’s one kind-looking guy, but you’ll like him more and more as the story develops…

(Edit: WordPress tells me this is my 200th post on the Blog of Funny Names. Not too shabby!)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Funny Names in the News segment for the most adorable news story… ever?

Once upon a time there was a St. Louis Blues team, with a lot of gritty, tough, workmanlike stars. They had the hard-hitting, trusty captain Dave Backes, and the dreamy Swedish star Patrik Berglund (don’t tell Arto I said such nice things about a Swede), and well-regarded-Olympian-yet-somehow-still-not-an-All-Star assistant captain T.J. Oshie.

We’ll ignore that “T.J.” stands for Timothy Leif, and instead focus on the awesomeness of the right winger, who was a first round draft pick of the Blues back in 2005. T.J. became a fan favorite and a major contributor to the team, to the point where he was selected for the U.S. National Hockey team, and became a shootout specialist for the squad, which ended up getting 4th place, losing to a team from some country named Finland in the bronze medal game. Finland… never heard of them. Maybe Arto can help fill me in.

Well, eventually all great things must come to an end, and Timothy Leif “T.J.” Oshie was traded on July 2nd to the Washington Capitals for former Stanley Cup champion Troy Brouwer, the hilariously-spelled prospect Pheonix Copley, and a third-round draft pick in 2016. Seriously – three talented folks were necessary for the Blues to give up their assistant captain T.J. Oshie.

It hit all Blues fans pretty hard – even me, despite the fact that I was only a Blues fan because Arto told me that I should like the team due to Backes and Oshie. But nobody was hit harder than St. Louis Blues super-fan Libby Lu – a 5-year-old who lived and breathed all things Blues and Oshie. In one of the most adorable videos of… ever… her mother caught Libby’s reaction to the TJ Oshie trade. Prepare yourself for some overwhelming adorableness!

Libby Lu has her priorities straight – she’s a Blues fan first, and a TJ Oshie fan second – and bleeds true Blue. This is the type of fan all teams want to find.

The reaction made Libby an instant celebrity and – while wearing an adorable set of American flags in her hair – she got a guest spot on SportsCenter, which is something so many of us aspire to. The host asked her some probing questions, and the highlights are listed here:

1:20 Why is TJ Oshie your favorite player (“Because he gets in hockey fights!”)

4:02 TJ Oshie shows up

4:30 she asks T.J. Oshie her most burning question… “Do you have a swimming pool?”

4:50 “Do you have a diving board on it?”

That's one happy kiddo! And who can blame her!

Libby Lu! That’s one happy kiddo! And who can blame her!

Ultimately, all is well that ends well. Libby Lu, who was heartbroken when TJ Oshie was traded, got the chance to talk to her favorite player, and he compensated her with some pretty amazing goodies… Libby got a #77 Jersey of Oshie’s as soon as he chose his number on his new team.

The bottom line is that, although Libby Lu had to experience some tough times, it seems like everybody wins! Libby Lu got to talk to her sporting hero (I’m still waiting for Gary Payton to give me a phone call), and got some amazing swag to go with it. Oshie gets a chance to help out a new team, with some very grateful fans, and the Blues get some new life and quality prospects. But most importantly, we all get to appreciate the greatness of Libby Lu – one of the greatest sports fans ever!

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