Funny Names Thursday : A Special Investigative Report

And now for something completely different. Here is a special report filed by our European Field Agent Portnoy Macademia. Enjoy.

In a nondescript office building in central Lausanne, Switzerland, there is a global registry of unusual names. A man named Herland Howitzer is the curator, sole customer service representative and by unfortunate necessity, janitor. He is essentially the registry embodied, the only employee aside from a nice old woman from Missouri by the name of Janet who has the job of sitting at a desk, holding open a very large book and smiling nicely to you when you ask about this or that name, before ringing a small bell that brings Herland over to actually talk to you.

The reasons behind the Registry’s founding remain shrouded in mystery. Herland has worked here “more than several decades”, he tells me, and so did the curator/janitor before him. He has a tendency to speak in vague terms, telling me the Registry building was built “before the most recent modern times, but not too long before that”, and that the founder was a man who was “not necessarily German, but was almost certainly blonde.”

Indeed, coming to Mr. Howitzer for information about the Registry can feel like a fool’s errand. Regardless, or perhaps for that precise reason, I kept on with my inquiries, and managed to extract some actual facts not obscured by his Teutonic vagueness. The Registry contains some 100,000 names from across time. The names are not submitted by their owners, most of whom have never even heard of the Big Book, as it is sometimes called in this building. Upstairs of the Registry office is a small bank which specializes in local pharmacies, next to that is a one-room watch repair shop, and in the top floor there is the regional headquarters of a major hole punch manufacturer (“The fastest way from a to b is through a hole!” says a jolly poster at the entrance).

hole punch

On closer inspection the names in the book do appear to be real. I checked out a few of the ones randomly found within the Big Book, and managed to track down Professor Ellsworth Portley of Oxford, England, a professor of Semantics there. He was not familiar with the Registry but was suitably intrigued to agree to visit with me there when in Lausanne for a conference on the “liquid nature of English morphemes”.

Mr. Howitzer enjoys keeping a sort of mystical air about the entry of the names. It’s not quite clear how he researches every person around the world, or what qualifies as an unusual name. For instance, a common Indian name of Purinder might sound funny to you, but it is in fact much like the name “Bob” to us, he explained to me on an afternoon tea and crackers break. Therefore you will not find people with that name in the book, except when “paired with a highly amusing surname”. He mentioned the example of a Dr. Purinder Prigshy of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I must agree it is quite a funny name, the Bob of India or not. Mr. Howitzer’s knowledge of norms and quirks of languages, cultures and names indeed seems extraordinary.

This is where the transmission cuts off for today. Check back tomorrow for Part Two of this special investigative report.

About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names.
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22 Responses to Funny Names Thursday : A Special Investigative Report

  1. Does anyone know what the round hole is for?

  2. marksackler says:

    ROFL, Arto. You have me on the edge of my seat waiting for part 2!

  3. marksackler says:

    Reblogged this on The Millennium Conjectures™ and commented:

    Being vain, I don’t usually reblog anything that is not by me or about me. But in this case, I’m making an exception. Brilliant investigative reporting here by my fellow Blog of Funny Names correspondent, Arto.

  4. wdydfae says:

    This is a cool direction! Part Kafka, part Sherlock Holmes, part J.R.R. Tolkein. This’ll be fun!

    I wondered about the cultural context transposition thing, too. Names like Ndugu Achebe, or Ken Kuriihata–unexceptional names in the country of origin, which also have their own names that could be hilariously funny, but the funniness might go right by us.

    • Arto says:

      Yay I’m glad you dug the change in direction. I was perhaps inspired by your limericks and such to do something unusual.

      The cultural context thing is funny. I can see this myself coming from another culture with a different language. English speakers find names funny that to me are ordinary, but other (Finnish) names I think are hilarious can spark zero reaction because the sounds that are funny in English may not be in Finnish and vice versa.

      This may require a research paper.

  5. amb says:

    Arto !!! I heart you so much right now, I can’t even. Give my love to Janet, and keep some for yourself too, because this was about seven kinds of awesome. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

    • Arto says:

      Thank you for the hearting Amb! If this was seven kinds of awesome, then tomorrow’s conclusion will be at least two of those kinds.

      How’s that for a sales job?

  6. Arto-you have outdone yourself here. I can’t wait to see what’s waiting for us tomorrow.

  7. Dave says:

    Very interesting! Bringing fiction into the BoFN theme is something I hadn’t even considered. Well done, Arto!

  8. ksbeth says:

    i am equally scared and intrigued

  9. Pingback: Part Two of Our Special Investigative Report | The Blog of Funny Names

  10. elkement says:

    And you are sure this building is in Switzerland? 😀 Couldn’t resist a bit of image googling… 😉
    But actually you (or your agent) did not say that this photo shows the nondescript office building mentioned at the beginning.

  11. Liz says:

    fantastico! I didn’t see a Thursday BoFN post coming, so just found this now. (why don’t I suscribe via email, you ask? Because everytime I do I GET KICKED OFF. Curious, I tell you.) But this isn’t about me it’s about you and your fantastico post. Thinking you have shades of a novel started here (not necessarily 50 shades–more of an intrigue thing than that other kind of book) and enjoyed your words very much. On to read part 2! Had I picked this up the day it was written, I would’ve been left hanging so it works much better this way.

    • Arto says:

      Yes, I myself, as a founder of this blog, can’t seem to keep subscribed to the mail option, so I know something fishy goes on with that thing right there.

      It was just a tad long for a single post, so I split it off at an arbitrary point. So I suppose you were accidentally doing it just right!

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