On the Name “Gitmo”

Logo of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay (Public Domain)

As President Biden moves to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison, columnist Ben Zimmer explores the history of the name “Gitmo”. Zimmer writes:

“The origins of the “Gitmo” designation go back to the end of the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. arranged a permanent lease of land on Guantanamo Bay at the southeast end of Cuba. The lease agreement with the new Cuban government ensured a continued American military presence on the island. That presence was sometimes used to protect Cuba’s sugar industry … From then on, Guantanamo Bay became a crucial hub of operations, and with telegraphy used for essential communications, an abbreviated form of the name was pressed into service: “Gtmo.””

From this origin, Zimmer traces the history of usage in media and popular culture, noting that the word “may no longer have such a hold on the public consciousness” if the Biden administration is successful in closing the prison.

Read more over at The Wall Street Journal.

Call for Papers: Onomastica Canadiana

From Grace Gomashie:

“The Executive Committee is pleased to announce Drs. Marcienne Martin and Rebekah Ingram as the next editors of the journal. Dr. Martin is Editor, French Language and Dr. Ingram is Editor, English Language Editor. They will serve for a three-year term, which begins this fall. We look forward to their brilliant leadership in starting this new chapter of the journal.

The appointment of the editors means that Onomastica Canadiana has resumed publication. Onomastica Canadiana is now inviting submissions in English or French. Papers in any area of onomastics are welcome. Please visit the journal’s website to submit your contributions. Please submit any question to Dr. Martin or Dr. Ingram.”

Contact information for the editors can be found on the journal’s website. You can submit contributions here.

When Manufacturing Cannot Keep Up with Demand for Brand Insignia

A Ford logo on a sign at the Den Hartog Ford Museum (Public Domain)

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal details the latest woes at Ford Motor Company: the manufacturer of the iconic blue Ford insignia has slowed production of the logo. The supplier, Tribar Technologies, slowed manufacturing in recent months due to an environmental regulatory order:

“A Michigan-based supplier that has made badges for Ford in the past had to limit operations in August, after disclosing to Michigan regulators it had discharged industrial chemicals into a local sewer system, according to city and state officials.”

The badge shortage is just one of many supply shortages that plagued manufacturers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more over at The Wall Street Journal and Jalopnik.

About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Once a rare name, Heather’s popularity peaked in the ’70s and ’80s”

Heather Gell (1896-1988) was an Australian kindergarten teacher and a radio broadcaster, television presenter and theatre producer (Photo of Heather in 1941, Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 25th column, he looks at the name Heather.

Happy Birthday to Sammy Jo and Amanda!

Heather Locklear, the actress who played golddigger Sammy on the original “Dynasty” (1981-1989) and manipulative Amanda Woodward on “Melrose Place” (1993-1999), turns 61 today.

In addition, the movie version of musical “Heathers,” based on the 1988 cult teen comedy film featuring three “queen bee” high schoolers all named Heather, premiered on Roku Sept. 16.

Heather is a low-growing evergreen shrub found throughout Europe. It’s especially common in northern England and Scotland, where its purple flowers cover the moors every summer. The plant’s name was originally “hathir.” This probably had a Celtic source, but its spelling was altered through confusion with “heath,” from Old English for “flat shrubby wasteland.”

Many cultures have named girls after flowers. Rose and Violet were used in medieval England, though Rose also came from a Norman name meaning “famous sort.” When the Victorians revived Rose and Violet along with other medieval names, creative parents were inspired to use other plant names. Girls called Lily, Pansy, Hazel, Fern, Daisy and Laurel soon sprang up.

The first British girls named Heather appeared by 1880. Though the flower was common in Scotland, the name was more common in England, probably because Scots didn’t have the same romantic image of heather English and Americans did.

Initially, Heather was one of the rarest flower names. The first Heather in the United States census, Heather Bremer of Dayton, Ohio, was a boy born in 1871. His parents were probably inspired by the rare surname Heather. In later records he’s “Robert Heather Bremer.”

Unique and Hard-to-Pronounce Names on the Job Market

Recently we shared a story about the rise of unique baby names in America over the course of the last few decades. A new study reveals that those same unique and hard-to-pronounce names might have an impact on job callbacks. The Wall Street Journal reports on the study of 1,500 economics PhD’s looking for academic, government, and private sector jobs, and concludes:

“Overall, people with complex names had a 10% lower chance of getting an academic job—generally the most desirable for economics Ph.D. candidates—over the next year. But there was a big split within those results. For candidates from top-ranked doctoral programs, having a complex name only decreased their chance of placing in an academic job by 5%, but for those coming from lower-ranked Ph.D. programs, a complex name decreased their chance by 12%. In other words, the penalty is small for those coming from top programs, but it is large for those coming from lesser ranked programs, Dr. Wu says.”

Read more in The Wall Street Journal.


On Wine Branding and Labeling

A collection of wine bottles (Public Domain)

A recently published guide in the Wall Street Journal helps readers interpret and decipher a wine label. A veritable Rosetta Stone for label readers, grape enthusiasts, and vineyard dilettantes alike, this short guide helps any imbiber get the most out of a wine label.

One fascinating fact: “For a wine to be labeled “estate-bottled,” 100% of the wine must come from grapes grown on land owned or controlled by the winery, and both the winery and the vineyard must be located within the labeled viticultural area.”

Read more over at the Wall Street Journal.

A Royal Rebranding: “Her Majesty’s” becomes “His Majesty’s” with the Rise of King Charles III

A 2021 photo of the now King Charles III (Public Domain)

Following King Charles III ascension to the throne, a major rebranding effort is underway. Where the phrase “Her Majesty’s” was found on everything including “British coins, flags, post boxes, chocolate wrappers, gin labels and attorney business cards,” now the phrase “His Majesty’s” will appear. For more on this rebranding effort, see this article in the Wall Street Journal.