Can you guess these celebrities’ birth names?

Celebrities are (in)famous for selecting unusual names for their children. When one considers the fact that many of these highly creative parental name-givers were born with conspicuously non-conspicuous names themselves, this pattern becomes even more intriguing.

Can you guess which celebrities had the following names on their original birth certificate?

  • Calvin Broadus
  • Shawn Carter
  • Thomas DeCarlo Callaway
  • Alicia Cook
  • Robyn Fenty
  • Elizabeth Woolridge Grant
  • Ben Haggerty
  • Peter Hernandez
  • Paul Hewson
  • Curtis Jackson
  • Alecia Moore


While you are thinking about it, here are some recent ear-catching names for celebrity baby names:

  • Kim Kardashian and Kayne West named their daughter “North”.
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Annual Conference of the Council of Geographical Names Authorities (COGNA), Reno, Nevada, May 3-4 2016

2300136536_22aab24e26_mFrom the 3rd to the 4th of May, 2016, the Annual Conference of the Council of Geographical Names Authorities (COGNA) will be holding its conference in Reno, Nevada. Although the conference plan has not yet been finalized, according to the event organizers, the 2016 COGNA will feature a meeting of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

For researchers interested in presenting a paper, stay-tuned to the COGNA website for upcoming conference updates as they become available.

Sephora is selling an inappropriately named lipstick that has people disgusted

lipstick-259411_640Viewers of the U.S. reality show, Miami Ink, will well remember the colorful tattoo artist, Kat von D. Since airing of the show, Ms. Von D. has expanded her professional repertoire. Her venture into the cosmetic industry has ignited a firestorm through the seemingly innocuous subject of lipstick naming.

The Sephora brand lipsticks inspired by Kat von D have received product names that many consumers consider grossly offensive. According to a 2015 article in the UK magazine Business Insider, one of the offending product names is “Underage Red.” A look at the Sephora lip color line-up quickly reveals other potentially injurious onomastic product choices. For example, the matte lipstick in the color of “dusty rose,” has been named Lolita and is described on the website as being “a cult favorite.”

In the social media, the response to the company’s line-up has been less than favorable among some shoppers. As one twitter-user posted with disgust: “[…]Do they have a whole sex offender line?”.

Although it is not known at this time whether Sephora plans to change its product-naming policy, Kat von D’s initial response was…well …catty. According to the Business Insider, her first reaction to the criticism, she tweeted back: “At the end of the day, it’s just a [EXPLETIVE] lipstick!” Since then, the tattoo artist has become more diplomatic in her response, but still refuses to apologize for the name-choice, arguing that her intentions have been entirely misunderstood.

For more information see this Business Insider article and this US Weekly article.

The Society for Low German Linguistic Research Annual Meeting, Stendal Germany, May 16-19 2016

17961601620_979ccef932_mThe Society for Low German Linguistic Research (Vereins für niederdeutsche Sprachforschung) will be holding it 129th annual meeting from the 16th to the 19th of May 2016 in Stendal, Germany.

With that goal in sight, the Society has officially opened its call for papers. Research papers dealing with the topics of historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and lexicography in Low German languages are welcome.

The special theme of the 2016 conference is new research methods for investigating the language and/or literature of low German (e.g. Narratology, multi-/ cross-media studies).

Anyone interested in presenting is asked to send in a 250 word/2,000 character abstract to Ingrid Schroeder (ingrid.schroeder[@] The deadline for receipt of proposals is October 15, 2015. The conference language is German. Click here for more about the society.


Petition to rename Yale’s Calhoun College

George_Peter_Alexander_Healy_-_John_C._Calhoun_-_Google_Art_ProjectIn an effort to unshackle itself from its history of human rights abuses, many states in the American South have begun to remove symbols that are commonly associated with slavery, segregation, and hatred. The most recent example was the momentous decision of the South Carolinian government to remove the Confederate flag from outside of the State House.

Hold-overs of the peculiar system are not only to be found south of the Mason-Dixon line. Behind the ivy-covered, brick walls of Yale University, debate has ignited over the university’s refusal to change the name a residential college named after John C. Calhoun, a 19th century valedictorian who was also an ardent defender of human slavery and a flaming white supremacist.

Yale’s naming controversy does not end there. To date more than 1000 signatures have been gathered on an online petition to rename Calhoun College. While supporters of the petition argue that removing the name is essential to creating a welcoming and respective campus environment, some critics warn that the removal of such symbols may inadvertently cover-up an ugly but important part of the university’s and the nation’s history.

For more information about the controversy, click here.

Bill introduced to abolish Iceland’s name regulation

9997815384_2bbfb226fa_mIceland is not only world famous for its awe-inspiring volcanoes, majestic geysers, and haunting northern lights. Among linguists, it is also well-known for its energetic language preservation policies.

Like the legendary Académie française, which was designed to protect the French language against unwanted foreign influences, the Icelandic Language Council, or the Íslensk Málnefnd (IM), is dedicated to preserving the integrity and ensuring the longevity of the Icelandic spoken, written, and signed language. On the one hand, the work of this IM is credited with making sure that Icelandic remains the first language of the island nation’s ca. 300,000 inhabitants and is not de-throwned by powerful foreign languages like English. On the other hand, some observers worry that the country’s restrictive language policies may impede upon its citizens’ rights to express themselves.

In recent years, for example, the prohibitive language policies concerning the names which parents can select for their newborns has fallen under repeated attack. In a recent case, the Icelandic authorities refused to renew the passport of a 10 year girl named Harriet on the grounds that the English name was not on the official list of the Icelandic Naming Committee. The Committee’s hard line has not only been felt by parents who have tried to give their offspring foreign names. There are also numerous cases in which the Committee has prohibited Icelandic names that they considered contrary to Icelandic onomastic traditions (e.g. Blær ‘gentle, light breeze’).

According to politicians like Óttarr Proppé, MP for the liberal party aptly named Bright Future or Björt framtíð, enough is enough. In an article featured in the Iceland Monitor, Proppé and his supporters have introduced a formal bill calling for the abolition of Iceland’s Naming Committee. If the proposal wins, it will be interesting to see what affect the decision might have for other nations with similarly restrictive naming policies (e.g. Denmark, Germany, and France).

You can read the list of approved boys’ names and girls’ names.

Japanese Airplanes inspired by Star Wars

15568371786_9eba170e24_mAll Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline carrier, just announced the arrival of a new, sleek, futuristic set of planes inspired by the legendary film series Star Wars. The first of the themed vessels, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamer was inspired by and named after the quirky blue-white-and-gray mini droid, R2-D2. The first of three planes to be produced in the ANA’s upcoming Star Wars series, the R2-D2 is scheduled to fly between Tokyo and Vancouver before expanding its flight route to include major cities in Australia, China, Europe, Indonesia, and the United States.

For more information see the following article from CNN, Tech Times, and Telegraph.