Ebenezer Butterick – A Sewer’s Savior

A while ago I was playing my vintage 1980 edition of Trivial Pursuit with some friends, facing down typically challenging questions about obscure names of pigeon friends in 1960s television shows. On one of these question cards came one of those names you always hope to find in your daily life. Ebenezer Butterick.

Mr. Butterick was one of the biggest names in fashion in the late 1880s, in many senses of the word. Frustrated with the difficulty of measuring and scaling home made clothing, Ebenezer and his wife Ellen Augusta Pollard Butterick came up with tissue paper dress patterns to make the job easier. This revolutionized home sewing and quickly made the couple very wealthy.

The very fashionable Mr. Ebenezer Butterick.

The very fashionable Mr. Ebenezer Butterick.

Ebenezer was a tailor by trade and therefore fully familiar with sizing up custom patterns to fit any individual, and set about creating a sewing empire with his simple, yet revolutionary invention.

The Buttericks eventually formed the Butterick Company, which among its many achievements once held the record for the world’s largest electric sign that hung off the side of their custom build Butterick Building in New York City. The sign had more than 1400 electric lights, and required a full time staff member of the company to constantly monitor it and replace burned out lights.

As you probably figured out by now, the author of this piece really knows nothing at all about sewing and the power and beauty of the Buttericks’ invention is a bit lost on me. However, I wouldn’t pass up any chance to salute their fine achievement of building a good idea into a giant funnily named company.

I'm not an expert, but I think this is a different type of sewer.

I’m not an expert, but I think this is a different type of sewer.

Butterick, as fitting a fashion icon, wore an impressive huge beard and also founded the Metropolitan fashion magazine, mostly to promote his own patterns. He died in 1903, the same year the company’s Manhattan headquarters was finished. The Butterick-McCall company is still a major player in fabrics, proudly carrying its founders’ name now in its third century. And that’s the power of a great name.

A Name for the Ages: Oliphant Chuckerbutty

“Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.”–Winston Churchill

In the beginning, there was Outerbridge Horsey.  And Outerbridge Horsey begat Outerbridge Horsey, Jr., who begat Outerbridge Horsey III, who begat Outerbridge Horsey IV and so on through Outerbridge Horsey VII, who still lives today.   And collectively, The Horseys begat the blog of Funny Names which became the bible of funny names.

Now, unto us a king is given.  Behold a new dawn and a New Testament of funny names.

I give you, Oliphant Chuckerbutty.  Or in full, Soorjo Alexander William Langobard Oliphant Chuckerbutty.   (note: he apparently also was known at times as Wilson Oliphant, but why he would ever go by anything other than Oliphant Chuckerbutty is beyond me.).

No, not that Oliphant.

No, not that Oliphant.

The esteemed Mr. Chuckerbutty (1884-1960) was a church and cinema organist, as well as composer of organ music.  He was best known for, well, not much other than an awesome name.  He did write a brief treatise for young aspiring cinema organists and a single one of his compositions has survived in the classical organist repertory.   Unfortunately for his legacy, there has been no call for cinema organists since the invention of talkies in the late 1920’s.  And here’s an interesting puzzle:  if the World Wide Web has only existed since the 1980’s,  how is it that his ancient document entitled To be or not to be–A Cinema Organist is available on line (here)?  Would anyone in his right mind actually publish this relic today?  No.  Aliens definitely walk among us; they built the internet hundreds of years ago and hid it from us until this exposee on The Blog of Funny Names.  

There’s not much else to tell about Mr. Chuckerbutty.  His grandfather was a journalist named William Oliphant–which might lead one to speculate that he was a relative of the political cartoonist Pat Oliphant.   It might; I have no idea.  Or maybe he was the inspiration for Tolkien’s oliphants.  I suspect that would actually be the organist in  the You Tube video below.

More of my silliness can always be found in The Millennium Conjectures.  Through the alien miracle of the internet, you don’t have to endure me in person.


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Funny Names in the News 98, Where We Fight Through the Pain With Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Carltonlima Emma

Yippy skippy! It’s Funny Names In The News again!

Ignore for a moment the obscene gesture (that is a middle finger... or third phalange for the sticklers out there) and recognize that that's not what a finger is supposed to look like!

Ignore for a moment the obscene gesture (that is a middle finger… or third phalange for the sticklers out there) and recognize that that’s not what a finger is supposed to look like!

Unfortunately, this will have to be a slightly abridged FNITN because of a rather peculiar circumstance. Last Friday, during an intramural med school Capture The Flag game, the BoFN’s very own oddball white guy Dave (yours truly) made a game-saving tackle and suffered a finger injury. Not really suffered, actually… I did my best to ignore it for a week but the swelling and pain wouldn’t subside.

Well, after a doctor’s visit yesterday, I found out it was actually a fracture, and will likely require a minimally invasive hand surgery that I will heroically endure with hopefully only local anesthetic (so as to not cost me important studying days).

This means that it’ll be a short FNITN because I’m typing with a finger splint on and that ain’t easy folks! It ain’t!

Chimamanda and her funny-faced 2-dimensional friend!

Chimamanda and her funny-faced 2-dimensional friend!

Leeeeeeeading off is one of my new favorite Americans… Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of the National Books Circle Award for Fiction (which comes a close second to Blog of Funny Names Induction in the pantheon of literary greatness). She recently published a short story, Olikoye, for a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation collection about the wonders of vaccinations – one of science’s greatest achievements.

Funny name, award-winning writer, and a supporter of a cause very close to my heart… definitely my kind of lady!

From really important societal issues to… well, this… it turns out that Queen Elizabeth’s newest horse is named Carltonlima Emma. I think the noteworthy part of this story is that Queen Elizabeth still rides her horse at age 88, but in my perfect world – one where funny names supersede everything, and we invest significant money in research grants for health sciences – Carltonlima Emma is the true highlight of the story. To be fair, why don’t we just celebrate both the Queen and her faithful steed – they’re both pretty awesome!

In political news, a leak of info from former HSBC IT employee Herve Falciani could be the determining factor in whether Loretta Lynch gets sworn in as US Attorney General.

"Vint Cerf, meet Bert!" - Perhaps the greatest phrase of four-letter words ever published on a family-friendly site!

“Vint Cerf, meet Bert!” – Perhaps the greatest phrase of four-letter words ever published on a family-friendly site!

Lastly, one of Google’s greatest visionaries, Vint Cerf (who we’ve profiled here before) warns of an “internet dark age“, saying that server limitations and the rapid turnover of popular websites (faster than we can archive them), could result in years of digital data getting lost. His recommendation: print out your files and photos for added backup!

But I think we know his true motivation… Vint wants there to be a print edition of the Blog of Funny Names, and who can blame him?!?!?!

Apparently, using an unusual typing strategy hurts your hand… enjoy your Fridays and catch you next week everybody!

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The Unkillable Adrian Carton de Wiart

Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart (1880 – 1963) was a British Army officer who served in the Boer War, WWI, and WWII.  He was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; tunneled out of a prisoner-of-war camp; survived two plane crashes, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them (per wikipedia).

This man could out-roundhouse kick Chuck Norris.

So let’s backtrack. Born in 1880 to an affluent family, he initially studied law at Oxford, but raging testosterone got the better of him and he quit the university in 1899 to get his fighting on in the Second Boer War, aka the Tweede Boereoorlog. He entered the army under the false name of “Trooper Carton”, and claimed to be 25, instead of the teen he was.

After sustaining wounds to the stomach and groin, Carton de Wiart was sent to an invalid home. However, he soldiered up and, in 1901, became an officer in the 4th Royal Dragoon Guards. In 1908, he married Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen. You read that right.

In WWI, he fought with the Army’s “Camel Corps” in British Somaliland, tackling an uprising by supporters of Mohammed bin Abdullah, dubbed the “Mad Mullah.” While attacking an enemy fort, he was shot in the face and lost his left eye – forcing him to wear a black patch for the rest of his life. His gallantry earned him the DSO (Distinguished Service Order). Not one to rest on his silver-gilted medal, he headed out to the bloody trenches of the Western Front to command infantry battalions. In 1915, he lost his left hand after being hit by shrapnel. Despite this loss, he later stated, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”

Between world wars, he remained in the military. In 1940, Carton de Wiart was sixty years old, the prime age to lead an operation to take the Norwegian city of Trondheim to halt the German advance. When supply lines collapsed, the mission failed. But Wiart remained undeterred. More battles were to come. While he was busy dodging Nazi bombardment in WWII, a German bomber flattened his London home and all his possessions, including his military medals, were destroyed (per dailymail.co/uk).

In 1941, on his way to lead the British Military Mission in Yugoslavia, his plane crashed into the sea a mile off the coast of Libya, an Italian colony. Once in the water, he thought, “I’m not going out like that,” then paddled ashore with his one good hand, but was captured and sent to a POW camp in Italy. Despite not speaking Italian and having an identifiable eye patch, he made five escape attempts, once eluding capture for eight days. Released in 1943, Winston Churchill sent him as his special representative to China.

Here he is with Churchill and FDR. He’s the one with the eye patch and no hand.



In his memoirs, he wrote, “We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.” He retired in 1947 and died in 1963, aged 83, presumably on stage, dropping the mike, and saying, “Peace out.”



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Juliette Gordon Low, funny name in food or no?

Today’s Funny Name in Food name hardly qualifies for this honor. First, it is not particularly funny. If you want a funny name or five, Monday’s post will do you well. But today’s name is what we have and I justify it as funny because it has that 3-2-1 syllable thing going on. Ju-li-ette Gor-don Low. Not everyone has a name like that.

It is also a not-great FNiF contender as Ms. Low, born in Savannah, Georgia, isn’t remembered for things food-related. Low’s claim to fame is starting the organization known as Girl Scouts of America. We honor Low today because, with my two young daughters, I am currently buried in Girl Scout Cookies.


nom. from flowingdata.com

Most Americans will be familiar with these sweet little treats. Thin Mints get most of the glory, though there are other varieties, like the newest spunkily named Rah Rah Raisin. But we talk funny names here, not food (head to food for fun for that), so back to Low we go.

Born Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon and nicknamed Daisy–which much improves her funny-name status–in 1860, Low loved the arts. She was also athletic overall and an especially talented swimmer. Her education consisted of boarding school at Virginia Female Institute and later a French finishing school in New York City. She also traveled extensively and it is clear that Ms. Low was all about Girl Power. A better founder of the Girl Scouts I can not imagine.

In 1912, Low founded the American Girl Guides with a troop of 18 girls. More than 100 years later, Girl Scouts of America has grown to include nearly 3 million members.

Fundraisers are an important part of any growing organization and in 1917, the girls of the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, got together to bake cookies to sell in their high school cafeteria to raise money for troop activities.

In July 1922, The American Girl magazine, publication of Girl Scout national headquarters, featured an article offering a cookie recipe* that had been given to the council’s 2,000 Girl Scouts. Estimating the cost of ingredients for six to seven dozen cookies at 30ish cents, the article suggested troops sell these cookies for 25 or 30 cents per dozen. High profits, indeed.

In the 1920s and 30s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with their mothers. These cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia Council baked cookies and sold them in the city’s gas and electric company windows in 1933. These sales allowed girls to develop their marketing and business skills as well as raise funds for their local Girl Scout council. One year later, Greater Philadelphia became the first council to sell commercially baked cookies.

bright and bold. and yummy.

bright and bold. and yummy.

The story continues up until the present, and if you’re looking for every sweet little detail, you will find them here. But a quick fast-forward brings us to now, when cookies boxes have been redesigned in bright, bold colors and the cookies sell for $4 a box, at least in Minnesota. Sure, it’s cheaper to buy a box of store-brand cookies for less than half the cost. But buying Girl Scout cookies is a time-honored tradition and a great way to support the organization Juliette Gordon Low started way back when because she believed in the power of girls.Seal_LLC (2)* Surely the first recipe offered here at Blog of Funny Names.

Girl Scout Cookie, circa 1922

copied directly from this site

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • additional sugar for topping (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and the cup of sugar; add well-beaten eggs, then milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Roll dough, cut into trefoil shapes, and sprinkle sugar on top, if desired.

Bake in a quick oven (375°) for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Makes six- to seven-dozen cookies.


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