A Special Field Dispatch – Piippa Tandefelt!

Hey ho, Funny Names Fans! A ‘special’ report here from the field in lovely Finland, where on a wander around the scenic Suomenlinna island fortress yesterday we ran into a lovely name – Piippa Tandefelt.

Piippa is the creator of the Suomenlinna Toy Museum, a beautiful house showcasing the history of toys, including some rarities, weird little things, and toy monkeys from as far back as the early 19th century. It’s full of all sorts of toys and dolls and things – they weren’t playing around when gathering up the collection!

But more importantly for the audience of this blog, it was founded by Piippa Tandefelt. She was born in 1939 and bought her first toys for her daughter in the early 1960s. She eventually worked as a ceramic artist, getting an inside look at the sometimes elaborate methods of toymaking that yielded some of the more splendid items in her collection.

Leslie posing in front of the toy museum, next to a blue penguin and a steady stream of German tourists.

Leslie posing in front of the toy museum, next to a blue penguin and a steady stream of German tourists.

She started collecting antiques in the 70s, partially as a response to the single-use craze of the time, of plastic furniture and buying everything new. The toy museum was founded in 1985 in the cellar of the family’s house and it’s been there in the spot ever since, attracting tourists from all over the world, particularly Germany if yesterday’s sample was in any way representative (then again, from my experience there’s no place you can go in the world where a group of German tourists isn’t already there waiting for you).

If you’ve ever wanted to see some really old teddy bears on a historical island fortress, stop by there when you’re in the neighborhood. I don’t know if there’s any other place you can.

Also, the cinnamon buns in the cafe are pretty damn tasty. Grab one of those too. And get me one if you can. Mmhmm.

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Happy Vacation!

With Arto in Finland and Dave prepping for an anatomy lab, Funny Names in the News is on vacation this week. See you next week, same FNITN time, same FNITN channel!

FNITN authors on vacation. Which one's Dave and which one's Arto?

FNITN authors on vacation. Which one’s Dave and which one’s Arto Amb!!!?

Bear Grylls

Yes, this is a person. Who is on tv. How did I not know about this ?!?

In my initial notes for this post, the aforementioned sentence contained a lot more, shall we say, enthusiastic, punctuation marks at the end of it. You guys! I still can’t believe this has happened!! I found a television show that I’ve never heard of !!!

Let’s just all take a moment and let that sentence sink in, shall we? I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit like the ground has fallen away from my feet and I’m barely hanging on, here.

 zac efron ropeburn

Ok. You know what? Maybe the situation isn’t really so bad. Maybe we just need to look at it from another angle.


Ahh, perspective. There’s nothing like it.

Those are shots from a brand new adventure series called “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” that airs Monday nights on NBC. Now, intrepid pop culture reporter that I am, I could stop here and tell you a number of things. I could give you a rundown of the show’s funny name credentials (renowned survivalist Bear Grylls takes celebrities such as Zac Efron and Channing Tatum on extreme wilderness excusions) or of Bear’s (he grew up in Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland), for instance.

Wild creatures, those mustangs

Wild creatures, those mustangs

Or we could dig deeper and I could tell you about the controversy surrounding certain episodes of his previous show, “Man vs. Wild” … like the time Bear claimed he was stranded on a deserted island in Hawaii and actually spent the night in a motel. … or like the time that, ahem, wild mustang he lassoed in the Sierra Nevada turned out to be a pony from a petting zoo.

But really, all of the journalistic details that you need to know are right there in that first sentence: Monday nights on NBC. Because then you’ll know to set the DVR on your televisions, and you’ll never again have to worry about missing something like this:


I love television.

love amb

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Galileo Galilei, Better Known as Galileo

You'd look like this too if you spent house arrest without any electronic devices.

You’d look this happy too, if you spent the remaining years of your life under house arrest without any electronic devices.

Astronomer, astrologer, musician, mathematician, physicist, philosopher, engineer, and heretic. This man knew how to live.

Born in Pisa, February 15, 1564. He could have said, “Hi ladies, I’m an Aquarius, the sign of the scientist,” but he didn’t.

Instead he said, “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”

The first of six children. Three of his siblings survived infancy.

His father, Vincenzo Galilei—a famous lutenist and composer and music theorist—taught Galileo to play a lute, a healthy skepticism of established authority, and a relationship between music and mathematics.

In his youth he considered becoming a priest. His father encourage him to become a physician. And something that would never happen nowadays—one day he went to the wrong class. Probably on a Thursday morning at 8 a.m. after celebrating hump night with his fellow classmates at a local watering hole.

The lecture—geometry.

Afterwards, he talked his dad into letting him study mathematics, even though it offered lower pay.

By 1589 he received the appointment to the chair of mathematics for the University of Pisa. He also studied fine art, later teaching it in Florence. His father died two years later, entrusting him with the care of his younger brother, Michelangelo.

Michelangelo, followed in his father’s profession as a lutenist. And as a financial burden to his older brother during his young adulthood. When he couldn’t pay his bills or his portion of his two sisters’ dowry, the brother-in-laws sued. The responsibility fell on Galileo’s shoulders. Maybe speeding up the creation of his inventions to improve his cash flow.

Galileo never married. His mistress bore three children: two daughters and a son. Because of the expensive lessons learned from his siblings, he chose the cloister for his daughters. The only acceptable alternative at the time. He legitimized his son, Vincenzo, as his legal heir and so Vincenzo could marry.

Credited with improvements to the telescope, observing and analyzing sun spots, discovering four large moons orbiting Jupiter and inventing an improved military compass, Galileo’s life took an interesting turn when he challenged the views of the Catholic Church with his theories of heliocentrism (the earth revolving around the sun).

The Roman Inquisition investigated the matter in 1615. They forced him to recant his theories, placed him under house arrest, and forced him to read the same bible verses (we’re not talking a couple pages here) each week for three years . . . his oldest daughter, Virginia, petitioned the Church to allow her to read the verses in his place relieving him of the burden.

He played it straight until 1632. Then his staunchest supporter, the newly elected, Pope Urban VIII, asked him to write a book, but include the Pope’s own theories as well. The resulting book, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”— perhaps his best work—made the Pope look like an idiot.

The Roman Inquisition returned for round two. They required him to “abjure, curse and detest” his former opinions, followed by a prison sentence. The next day it improved to house arrest. It pays to be popular.

Galileo’s last comment after being forced to recant his theory about the earth moving around the sun, “And yet it moves”.

He died January 8, 1642 at the age of 77.  Because he upset the Church, they buried his remains away from his family in the basilica of Santa Croce, and put him in a small room next to the novice’s chapel.

Almost 100 years later, they reburied his remains in the main body of the basilica. During the move, one of his teeth and three fingers were removed—relics.

Seems fitting they displayed his right middle finger in the Museo Galileo, Florence, Italy.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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Tristram Shandy

As someone known first and foremost for having a kooky name, and that nearly 250 years ago, Tristram Shandy should hold a special place in funny nameology. His is a fictional name, in a fictional autobiography: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

We’re using “autobiography” loosely here. One of the running jokes of Tristram Shandy is that Tristram can’t get his story off the ground. He doesn’t even get to his own birth until volume three. Tristram’s long and winding narrative contains plenty of his opinion, but hardly anything about his life.

The long and winding narrative (click to enlarge)

The long and winding narrative (click to enlarge)

This famously idiosyncratic creation was authored by Laurence Sterne. Defying literary convention on so many levels, it was an experimental novel long before experimental novels were cool, anticipating modernist masters like Virginia Woolf and James Joyce.

Another major joke of the novel is that Tristram’s father Walter Shandy loathed the name Tristram above all names. Through a series of mishaps, his chosen name, Trismegistus, gets mispronounced by the chambermaid and Tristram ends up being christened with the most objectionable name imaginable (for Walter, anyway).

Walter subscribes to the theory that an inauspicious name dooms one for life.

Needless to say, Walter has thoroughly warped poor Tristram’s mind. Among Walter’s many other quack theories is the idea that a long nose is essential to success; Tristram’s nose gets crushed at birth by the forceps of Dr. Slop. a male midwife (who calls himself a “scientifick operator”). Thus, Tristram is doubly danged.

Actually triply danged (or so he thinks): he is accidentally circumcised as a child by a falling window sash while peeing out of a window, due to the negligence of the same chambermaid who mangled his name.

In fact, make that quadrupally danged. During Tristram’s conception Elizabeth Shandy asks Walter if he remembered to wind the clock. Tristram believes he didn’t implant correctly in his mom’s womb as a result and that his “humors” are out of whack.

 Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim get working on one of their battle reenactments.

Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim get working on one of their battle reenactments.

Tristram Shandy has a great menagerie of eccentric characters, many as funnily named as Tristram himself. There is his uncle Captain Toby Shandy and Toby’s manservant Corporal Trim. Uncle Toby has a mania for military history, and he and the Corporal get into madcap adventures doing battle reenactments.

Other memorable characters are Widow Wadman, who tries to rope Uncle Toby into marriage, Lieutenant Le Fever, an unfortunate whom Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim take under their wings, and Billy Le Fever, the Lieutenant’s orphaned son who becomes Uncle Toby’s charge.

There is also Parson Yorick, a close family friend of the Shandys, Eugenius, the parson’s buddy, and a gaggle of bookish guys, Didius, Kysarcius, Phutatorius, Triptolemus, and Gastripheres, who advise Walter, Toby and Pastor Yorick about getting Tristram’s name changed.

Happily, we can assume nothing came of those consultations; the name Tristram Shandy endures. And long may it endure more!

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