Grover “Ugly Honest” Cleveland

What happens when Sesame Street meets Betty White? You get, Grover Cleveland. One tough cookie.

Grover Cleveland

Source: Wikipedia

Stephen Grover Cleveland, mentioned twice on this esteemed blog, here and here, a native son of New York. He served as Governor of New York, Mayor of Buffalo, and while serving as assistant district attorney and again while serving as sheriff of Erie County he earned the nickname “Ugly Honest.” That’s kind of eerie if you ask me.

His vice president, Adlai Stevenson I, a great name worth repeating with his son, Adlai Stevenson II, congressman.

Cleveland was considered one of the hardest working presidents, completing his own paperwork, regularly working past midnight—often later, and battling the Senate as he worked to clean house in Washington. And he succeeded with the support of the people.

He asserted the earliest form of what we now call “executive privilege.”

Like the twice baked potato—resting in the middle, he is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. First elected in 1885—22nd president, then again in 1893—24th president. Of his five children only his daughter, Ruth, was born in the White House. Since I couldn’t find reference of any other children being born there, I suspect she was the only baby Ruth swimming in a bath tub in the White House.

Two months after his second inauguration, the stock market crashed sending the country into the worse depression up to that time.  While in the midst of the crash, Cleveland was diagnosed with a malignant carcinoma in his mouth.

His advisors, concerned news of his health might cause deeper financial panic, announced he set off on his summer vacation in New York.

Under the veil of extreme secrecy he was whisked away on a friend’s yacht on the East River where a team of five physicians and a dentist tied him to the mast of the yacht, sedated him with ether and nitrous oxide, removed his upper jaw and part of his upper palate, then successfully removed the carcinoma—in a forty-one minute operation. In a subsequent surgery he was fitted with a rubber jaw and plate. He spent the summer learning how to talk again. That’s one tough cookie.

Cleveland died in 1908. The extreme secrecy of the operation prevented the incident becoming public knowledge until 1917.

Cleveland’s wife, Francis “Frank” Folsom Cleveland, started out as his ward after her father died. He watched her grow up, then proposed to her in a letter when she was away at college. She was 21, he was 49 and a sitting President. Did I mention they had five kids?

What happened to Frank Cleveland after Grover died? She married a Princeton professor five years after Grover’s death and lived happily into her eighties.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

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Touchdown! The Greatest Super Bowl Winner Names

The glory. The adulation. The Budweiser®. These are just some of the great perks of winning the Super Bowl, like the Denver Broncos did in yesterday’s championship game.

Winners’ names live forever as the top football achievers of their time. And for us – those names are glorious.

Here are some of the funnest, most unusual and most delightful names of Super Bowl winning players.


A name that is the perfect mixture of European sophistication and Southern shrimp trawling, Bubba Paris got that splendid name etched into legend by winning three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s.


This 1970 champion with the Chiefs has the kind of awesome name you’d expect to find mining for gold in westerns. Instead, you’ll find his name in the hall of fame.


Rare profile of Bubba Paris.


The tasty sounding Mr. Pickel not only won the Super Bowl in his rookie season with the Raiders, he also starred in four episodes of Home Improvement after retiring from the game. That’s the kind of versatility champs are made of.


Baschnagel technically didn’t play for the Bears during their ’85 championship year due to injury, but received a ring anyway as a key member of the squad. I am not sure if he participated in the Super Bowl Shuffle, which may have been an even greater achievement than the sporting championship itself.


2007 champions New York Giants featured these next two splendidly named players. Madison “Mad Dog” Hedgecock earns a spot on the list with a name that rolls of the tongue as smoothly as a freshly opened can of Budweiser®. 


Star of the show Wilson, whose brother Wilson appeared in the Tom Hanks film Cast Away.


Getting his unusual first name after his uncle, you could be forgiven for thinking Plaxico Burress was the name of an aluminum processing company rather than a football player. You would of course be wrong, but I wouldn’t hold it against you. Look – it’s an unusual name is what I’m getting after here.


It’s hard to get more generically awesome than Johnny Sample. His cousing James Person comes close, but there’s a poetic pleasure in the name of this three-time champion.


“Easy Sweezy!”, as no one probably said after Seattle’s triumph in the 2014 Super Bowl. I could see him endorsing a whole line of products after retiring from the game. Sweezy Fabrezey! Cheesey Sweezy Dip! Sweezy’s Keysies Locksmithing for Kids! The possibilities are endless.


We conclude our list with this pretty badass name. The imposing sounding Mr. Hightower won last year’s championship game with the New England Patriots, his balls remaining undeflated in the run to the trophy. Thinking of messing with Hightower? Dont’a!


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Happy Groundhog Day from Punxsutawney Phil

How many of you have gained all of your knowledge about the big holiday Hoo-ha today from the movie?

You know, Groundhog Day, the Lay’s Potato Chip of a flick starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell from 1993 that you couldn’t help but watch over and over again?

Yeah, that movie. (From

Yeah, that movie. (From

Of course sometimes Hollywood (loosely) bases its best work on fact, and the late, great Harold Ramis was no different as he co-wrote and directed this comedy that became legend.

And so on this Feb. 2 here on The Blog of Funny Names I offer you the hard truth about Groundhog Day.

Thank you very much, WikiPedia and for your thoroughness about this day in American history.

It all started in 1887 at a place called Gobbler’s Knob in Punxatawney, Pa. That’s where local newspaper editor Clymer H. Freas, a member of the Punxatawney Groundhog Club, decided that the furry groundhog they all called Phil was America’s true weather-predicting furry.

And if that’s not enough to earn a spot in the BoFN, I’m crawling back into bed for the rest of winter.

The legend we all repeat again and again says that if Phil sees his shadow, he’ll scurry back into his hole, and we’ll face six more weeks of winter. But if it’s cloudy, out he’ll come to cavort, and we’ll be in for an early spring.

It’s all based on science instead of shadowy smoke and mirrors, of course. Groundhogs — or hedgehogs, if you prefer — hibernate for the winter months, and come out for spring.

The folks of Punxatawney continue the Feb. 2 tradition. (From

The folks of Punxatawney continue the Feb. 2 tradition. (From

In any case, Happy Groundhog Day. I’m rooting for a cloudy day over there in Gobbler’s Knob and an early spring over here in Syracuse, N.Y.

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Funny Names in the News vol. 116 with Rainy Dingle and Tasty Lasagna

Happy Friday! It’s time again to go over the newspapers again and dig out the week’s very best names.

First, we pop over to Italy, where a big soccer match between Inter Milan and Carpi had a dramatic ending. Inter was 1-0 ahead in the last minute, when Carpi’s tasty striker Kevin Lasagna decided the time was ripe for an equalizer. headlined the event “Inter choke on Lasagna”, which is pretty good.

Italy's top scorer, earlier.

Italy’s top scorer, earlier.

In country music news this week, fans of Brantley Gilbert are going to have to wait just a bit longer for his new album. I don’t think I’ve yet heard one of his tunes, but I like the sound of the name. Always good to see a rare “last name as first name, and first name as last name” combo.

In icier sports, the NHL All Star Game is taking place this weekend at the birthplace of hockey – Nashville, Tennessee. The roster for the event includes Blog of Funny Names favorites Dustin Byfuglien and Devan “the Dube” Dubnyk. Unfortunately most of our favorite names did not make it this time around, but there’s always next year, Clayton Stoner!

Less funnily named, but delighting the crowd at the game are also the winner of the fan vote, and probably the league’s worst player John Scott, half-bear half-man hybrid Brent Burns, seen here playing with a baby penguin, and our newest friend, the Russian sniper Evgeny Kuznetsov, who played his way into our hearts with this quote about his daily routine :

“I just want to play hockey, come home. Watch the Family Feud, go to bed. Wake up, play hockey again.”

That’s my kind of routine.

Brent Burns has the best hair in the world.

Back to soccer, where England’s Sunderland AFC celebrated their youth academy graduates this week, including one Jonjo Dickman. Young Dickman only played for the club once before moving onto other teams, but he is fondly remembered on their website at least.


Meanwhile in Ireland, bad weather is making the news. Very high winds caused huge waves to hit shore in the Dingle Peninsula, which for obvious reasons is our very favorite peninsula. You can see some of the footage of very angry water here.

Thanks for reading, this has been this week’s update on Funny Names in the News! Check back next week for more fun business!

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Ji-Tu Cumbuka

When you see the name Ji-Tu, your brain probably checks its card catalog for best matches and then pulls up the sport jujitsu. But he is not jujitsu; he’s a veteran actor.

You may recognize Ji-Tu Combuka from his acting roles in Roots, Harlem Nights, Brewster’s Millions, Mandingo, or Bound for Glory. In a time where black actors are currently protesting the lack of roles for minorities (specifically African-Americans), we can look to Cumbuka as a successful actor of over a hundred films and television series, spanning the decades.

And, yes, Ji-Tu is his given name. Per the site, it was all Cumbuka’s grandmother’s idea. In Swahili, “Ji-Tu” means giant, and “Cumbuka means “to remember.” How she knew he was going to grow up to be 6’5″ is another question altogether.

Born in Alabama on March 4, 1942 to a Baptist minister who believed acting was “the devil’s work,” Cumbuka grew up in the segregated South. At the age of 12, he saw his first movie, Shane, which inspired him to act. Once grown, he headed up to Yankee territory in New York and eventually  enlisted in the Army, where he excelled in football and track. Scholarships were offered, and he chose Texas Southern University to major in the devil’s work. Ultimately, he earned a B.A. in theatre and a master’s in cinematography.

After three years taking acting classes and performing in community plays, he landed his first top role in the 1968 movie Uptight, which led to roles, such as Wrestler in the TV miniseries “Roots.” Cumbuka shared a memory from his 1976 audition:

After the introductions, David Green (the director) spoke to me. “I say, ol chap,” he began, “that’s a very unusual name you have. Where are you from?”
“South America,” I replied.
“What part?” he inquired.
“Helena, Alabama,” I immediately responded, not losing a beat. The entire room erupted in laughter…



As you may know, when Michael J. Fox  first joined the Screen Actors Guild, he had to register his name with a middle initial to differentiate himself from the already-registered actor Michael Fox. (Fun fact: “J” wasn’t even legit; his middle name is Andrew.) Cumbuka, however, never had this problem, as there were no other Ji-Tu Cumbukas. Although there IS a drink called GT’s Kombucha, which is powerful in its own way.


Whether in his roles on “Knots Landing,” “The A-Team,” “The Dukes of Hazard,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” or “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” Ji-Tu Cumbuka has certainly lived up to his name as a giant to remember. And he’s still going strong at 73.

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