Last Call! Nominations for the 2017 Name of the Year

The American Name Society requests nominations for the “Names of the Year for 2017”. The names selected will be ones that best illustrates, through their creation and/or use during the past 12 months, important trends in the culture of the United States and Canada.

Nominations are called for in the four following categories:

Personal Names: Names or nicknames of individual real people, animals, or hurricanes.

Place Names: Names or nicknames of any real geographical location, including all natural features, political subdivisions, streets, and buildings. Names of national or ethnic groups would be included here.

Trade Names: Names of real commercial products, as well as names of both for-profit and non-profit companies and organizations, including businesses, universities, and political parties.

Fictional/Literary Names: Names of fictional persons, places, or institutions, in any written, oral, or visual medium, as well as titles of art works, books, plays, television programs, or movies.

Winners will be chosen in each category, and then a final vote will determine the overall Name of the Year for 2017. Anyone may nominate a name. All members of the American Name Society attending the annual meeting will select the winner from among the nominees at the annual ANS meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 5, 2018. The winner will be announced that evening at a joint celebration with the American Dialect Society.

Advance nominations must be received before January 2, 2018. Nominations will also be accepted from the floor at the annual meeting. Please send your nominations, along with a brief rationale, to Dr. Cleveland K. Evans at cevans[@]

The Call for Nominations can be downloaded here.

Politicians most likely remembered for their nicknames

Known for her austerity policies, Thatcher became ‘the Milk Snatcher’. Reuters: Roy Letkey

A politician’s name — especially one that makes a witty nickname — can have a disproportionate effect on their legacy and reputation. It’s not vacuousness; our brains are wired to recall rhyme and humor more readily than a politician’s actual legacy.

If a elected representative’s name lends itself to a rhyming pun, an ironic distortion or a catchy insult, they’ll primarily be remembered for the event that coined the nickname.

Although well-known for being the first female British prime minister and her long and formidable tenure in office, Margaret Thatcher is often remembered for something she did before any of this even happened, during her former role as education minister. She revoked free milk for school kids, the perceived measly meanness characterized by the rhyme: “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher!” Former US president Lyndon B Johnson suffered similar death by nomenclature. Americans’ habit of referring to their presidents by their initials led to a catchy takedown of Johnson’s Vietnam war policy: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

Some politicians change their name to make them more palatable to the electorate. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk anglicized the pronunciation of her surname (these days it’s pronounced “pala-shay”) for similar reasons to US vice-president Spiro Agnew, who changed his name from Spiro Theodore Anagnostopoulos.

Want to know more about politicians’ names? Click through to this article at ABCNews to find out much more!

Call for Papers: SEM2018—7th Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics, New Orleans, Louisiana, June 5-6 2018

In New Orleans, Louisiana (USA), the 7th Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics (SEM2018) will be held from the 5th to the 6th of June 2018, co-located with NAACL 2018. The purpose of this conference is to bring together researchers working in the fields of semantics of natural languages and its computational modeling. The conference embraces symbolic and probabilistic approaches. The Call for Papers can be found here. Paper submission are due March 2, 2018.

University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany: Postdoctoral position available

The University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany) is currently accepting applications for a postdoctoral fellow with expertise in urban semiotics, memory studies or and/or linguistic landscape research. This opportunity is being funded by the German Research Foundation and will be a part of the project “Memory and ideology in the linguistic landscape: Commemorative (re)naming in East Germany and Poland 1916-2016.” The purpose of this project is to explore the socio-political and ideological factors involved in the commemorative street naming in five cities in Eastern Germany and Poland. You will find information about the Faculty and the contracting authority at the University web site.

The ideal candidate will have a background in urban semiotics, linguistic landscape analysis, memory studies, media studies, critical and /or multimodal discourse analysis and a strong research interest in Eastern Europe. A very good knowledge of German and English is required. Knowledge of Polish is a plus but not required. This is a 50% position for 3 years. Starting date: 16. April 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter. Duration: 3 years. Tenure: 50% FTA

Contact Information: Prof. Isabelle Buchstaller,

The Pink Lake isn’t pink!

When tourists arrive in Esperance, they make a beeline for the Pink Lake the Western Australian south coast town is famous for. The problem? It’s not pink anymore.

Conservation experts believe the fate of Pink Lake was sealed years ago when a highway and rail line cut off the natural flow of water into the salt lake system. Super saline conditions are needed to support the green algae that accumulates the beta-carotene pigment, the same pigment that colours carrots, which turned the lake pink. “With the loss of the channel, these salts aren’t flushing through into Pink Lake, and as a result Pink Lake doesn’t turn pink any more,” State Government conservation officer Steven Butler said. Salt mining on the lake, which has long since shut down, was also a factor.

Tourism Esperance chairman Wayne Halliday said the organisation was lobbying the Western Australian Department of Lands to remove any reference to Pink Lake on official documents and replace it with the original name. “We are currently seeking to have the Pink Lake, just the lake name, reverted back to its original gazetted name of Lake Spencer,” Mr Halliday said.

Read about possible solutions to this colorful issue at ABCNews!

LKAS Interdisciplinary PhD Scholarship: Place-Names on the Rocks

A PhD studentship is being offered by the University of Glasgow for students who are interested in researching connections between place names and geology. The project, called Place-Names on the Rocks, intends to test the proposition that place-names reflect, and might even be used to predict, aspects of underlying geology in the landscape. This will be achieved by subjecting Scottish place-name data to a rigorous examination underpinned by geological expertise. Fieldwork will contextualise place-name data in a geological framework to strengthen the candidate’s research linking these two features. The project proposes that the link between place-names and geology is not confined to only one language or area, and so the research will encompass different parts of Scotland, and involve investigating names originally coined in Gaelic, Scots and Old Norse. The deadline for formal applications is: 12noon, Friday 12 January 2018. Requirements and information on how to apply can be found at the web page.

Interstellar asteroid given the Hawaiian name ‘Oumuamua

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid, `Oumuamua. 

An asteroid that visited us from interstellar space is one of the most elongated cosmic objects known to science, a study has shown. Discovered on 19 October 2017, the object’s speed and trajectory strongly suggested it originated in a planetary system around another star. Astronomers have been scrambling to observe the unique space rock, known as ‘Oumuamua (pronounced oh MOO-uh MOO-uh), before it fades from view.

The asteroid’s name, ‘Oumuamua, means “a messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) also approved an official scientific designation for ‘Oumuamua: 1I/2017 U1.

‘Oumuamua was first spotted on Oct. 19, by astronomers using the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii. The smallish object was first classified as a comet but then regarded as an asteroid, after further observations revealed no evidence of a coma (the fuzzy cloud of gas and dust that surrounds a comet’s core).

Find out more about this amazing asteroid in this BBC News article!


Call for Papers: Nicolaisen Essay Prize

The Scottish Place-Name Society is now accepting submissions for the annual Nicolaisen Essay Prize in honor of the late names scholar, Professor Bill Nicolaisen. Interested applicants are invited to submit an original work (ca. 5,000 words) on any topic of onomastics. The deadline for receipt is the 31st of December 2017. The winner will be invited to present a paper at a conference at the Scottish Place-Name Society. Submissions should be sent to the Society’s Convener, Professor Carole Hough:

Property prices lower on streets with silly names in Australia

House prices on streets with silly names are significantly lower than houses on nearby streets, a study by Victorian school students has found. High school girls at Sacred Heart College (SHC) in Geelong, a city in Melbourne, Australia, conducted the research with guidance from the school’s head of science, Adam Cole.

The students identified 27 streets in Victoria with silly names, including Butt Street, Wanke Road and Fanny Street. (American readers: “fanny” has a different meaning in the UK and Australia/NZ than it does in the US!)  They found that property prices in streets with silly names were about 20 per cent lower than properties in the normally-named roads. As the report notes, that amounts to a $140,000 saving on a median-priced Melbourne house.

Read this article at ABC News to find out more – and if Australians would take advantage of the savings!