Episode 593: Strong Sad Trogdor Fenzel

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle names and the process and responsibility of naming things.

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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather overthink names and naming: the sounds and meanings of names; the many dimensions of decision-making about children; and why you shouldn’t name your chocolate lab “Mocha.”

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3 Comments on “Episode 593: Strong Sad Trogdor Fenzel”

  1. John C Member #

    I point everybody to Phil Karlton’s statement on the subject, “there are only two hard things in Computer Science: Cache invalidation and naming things.” Oh, and also to “Children of Eden,” one of the best musicals pretty much nobody has heard of, which takes a very similar (though far less explicit) “naming as an act of poetry” approach.


    One name was overlooked, however: By “upcycling” Gus to Augustus Caesar, you suddenly relate to Augie Doggie, the Hanna-Barbera property.

    The consonant issue reminds me of the brief Russian classes I had in high school culminating in the arrival of Russian students. Apparently, our teachers had some sort of weird rivalry, so we were told that they would probably tease us about our pronunciation of Zdravstvuyte (Здравствуйте), so to bear in mind that they’ll have equivalent problems with “sixths,” because English tends to cluster consonants at the end, whereas Russian clusters them towards the beginning.

    Naming structures have recently been interesting to me, varying from Armenian (just a given name and surname) to Arabic (potentially with given names, honorifics, a series of patronymics, a tribe/homeland, and an eldest child) to Burmese (one- and two-syllable Pali words up to a maximum of five syllables, all of which are a “given name”).

    The cultural aspects of individual names is always awkward, because there’s that weird line between what feels like racism or xenophobic (“I must pick an Ruritanian name, because most of my great-grandparents are Ruritanian”) on one hand and cultural appropriation on the other. Oh, and for people blessed with three hands, there’s also the possibility of just creating new names, I guess, which will be mocked as “making one up,” as if any of our names are part of the fabric of the universe.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      I’ve always liked the version that goes, “There are only two hard things in Computer Science: Cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors.”

      Though some product managers I’ve worked with say, “There are only two hard things in Computer Science: Cache invalidation and listening to engineers tell the stupid joke about two hard things in Computer Science.”


      • John C Member #

        The quote I wanted to throw in, but couldn’t track down, was the one about finally coming up with a great name and now just needing a project to go with it. I couldn’t find it, though, and Karlton’s quote was well-sourced, so I went with the substandard choice…


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