Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best Names of 2015

It’s been a rather odd year. No one’s been able to nail it in one word. Merriam-Webster thinks ‘Ism’ is a pithy summation of 2015, because the world was obsessed with terrorism, racism, feminism, and Trumpisms! kind of concurs but has chosen ‘Identity’ as its Word of the Year. In the land we belong, I’d say ‘Beep’ is more like it, as we’ve been grappling with multiple forms of intolerance regarding what we say, what we wear, what we eat, what we view, and what we sing.

Now that we’ve provoked you from your New Year slumber, let’s turn your attention to the most original names developed in the last 12 months. Let’s start with the Best Tamil movie title: ‘Vellaiya Irukiravan Poi Solla Maatan’ (Fair Skinned Never Lie). Inspired from a racist quip in a Vadivelu comedy track, the name brings an immediate smile and is a great way to draw people into a comedy. Among the mallu flicks, ‘Oru Vadakkan Selfie’ (A Northerner’s Selfie) was the clutter buster. It’s catchy, and contemporary nature felt just right for the thriller. ‘A Shyam Gopal Varma Film’ was my pick for the smartest Telugu film title as it feels every inch like a spoof on Ram Gopal Varma!

‘141’ was my number one choice for the Best Kannada title. If you get the cryptic ‘one for one’ touch, you’ll appreciate this Lesbian romance better. Balki’s ingenious portmanteau ‘Shamitabh’ towered above other Bollywood drivel like ‘Kaagaz ke Fools’ and ‘Yaara Silly Silly’. In case you’re wondering why I haven’t yet covered English movies, well, ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ made it to my list due to the intrigue it’s suffused with. The fascinatingly dreary ‘Microbe and Gasoline topped my Foreign Films compilation.

The arrestingly in-your-face ‘Galileo’s Middle Finger’ was my non-fiction book title of the year. In sharp contrast, the more evocative ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ was the numero uno among novels. The twitter handle that rocked for me was Twinkle Khanna’s ‘Mrs Funnybones’. Incidentally, it’s also the title of the best seller penned by her.

Cut to music. ‘Club Meds’ a trippy pun on the resort, outscored all other albums in terms of stickiness and recall. The immensely unusual ‘Car Seat Headrest’ was easily the best new band name – for its sheer audacity of being consciously uncool.

‘Jibo’ (Japanese for ‘compassionate mother’) the first ever family robot was my selection for the new product moniker of the year. And ‘Vistara’ (Sanskrit meaning: to expand) emerged clearly as the most endearing new Indian brand name. Hope the harvest will be as good in the coming season

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Forget Me Not

The human brain is a network of 100 billion neurons with the mind-boggling capacity to store 20 million songs. With such a huge hard drive, some of us still manage to be dim bulbs!

The fault could lie in our RAM (Random Access Memory) or the working memory. If the RAM is in the league of 8 GB, chances are we’d be able to recall nearly everything. If, on the other hand, our RAM is in the realm of 512 MB, we’re likely to have the memory of a gold fish.

At school, I think, all of us had a rather distracted frame of mind. Which probably explains the profusion of mnemonics (memory aids) to make us remember things. I still recollect my physics teacher’s naughty little mantra: Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me. Apparently, it’s the nifty way to recollect O, B, A, F, G, K and M – the seven types of stars in a galaxy arranged in decreasing order of temperature.

Google tells me that ‘My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos’ is how kids in America remember the nine planets. In our geography class, ‘HOMES’ was the code word to memorize the Great Lakes of North America. For those who’ve forgotten, it’s Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

‘Dumb Kids Prefer Candy Over Fancy Green Salad’ is a very contemporary way to refresh your memory on Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus & Species (the taxonomy of life as taught in Biology).

The beauty of mnemonics is, anyone can create their own formula for calling to mind just about anything - not just lists. For instance, the number pi can be worked out to the 15th place by just counting the letters in the following sentence: “How I like a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics”. That would be 3.14159265358979.

In a nation of mug pots, it helps to have desi mnemonics. So I wasn’t surprised when I stumbled upon ‘Sona Chandi Tole Pandit Badri Prasad Har Har Bhole’. It’s the cheat sheet for arriving at trigonometric formulae for Sine, Cosine and Tangent.

Basically Sona (sine) is Pandit Badri (Perpendicular/Base), Chandi (cosine) is Prasad Har (Perpendicular/Hypotenuse), and Tole (tangent) is Har Bhole (Hypotenuse/Base). Any crammer would tell you, that’s simply ingenious. But then, mnemonics were meant to make the dreary job of mugging smile-worthy, right? Before I take leave, I’ll sign off with ‘Lovely Cadbury Dairy Milk’. It’s the delicious way to chew on LCDM, the major Roman numerals!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Getting Away With Murder

The driverless car did it. The drunken roads did it. Everyone else, except Sallu, did it. That’s the only conclusion one can draw from the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict pronounced on the 13-year-old case concerning a Bollywood star best known for 100-crore hits-and-runs.

The judgement has provoked maximum outraging in the maximum city. But as seasoned observers will tell you, getting off the hook is par for the course for celebrities across the world. Let me name a few names to put you to ease.

Sometime in 1969, Ted Kennedy (the youngest brother of JFK, and a United States senator), in a famous episode of drunken driving caused the death of a young lady named Mary Jo. Instead of being charged with homicide, his surname helped him snag a mere two-year sentence. There was no public apology to the family. Some monetary compensation exchanged hands, that’s all.

OJ Simpson’s case was even more brazen. The rugby star was tried for the 1994 murder of his ex-wife and her friend. Despite being caught after a chase by the LAPD and tell-tale evidence of his bloody footprints at the scene of the crime, OJ was let go. After release, he had the cheek to write a book titled ‘If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer’. Thankfully, he’s now cooling his heels serving a 33-year prison sentence related to a robbery case.

Singer R. Kelly, the man who behind ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, was once arrested for having sex with a minor and for indulging in child pornography. The charges were serious and just when the world was expected him to be severely punished, all charges were dropped and he walked a freeman!

Rappers Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Jay-Z have all been acquitted for grave crimes. That’s because celebs jumping the bail and beating the system has been the norm for centuries.

Fatty Arbuckle, a silent movie era legend, was tried thrice over the mystery death of a lady who spent some quality time with him. But the jury glossed over the man slaughter. Al Capone, the Chicago gangster and the brain behind many street murders, always managed to escape the electric chair. But karma caught up with him when he was pinned down for tax evasion. So all ye who despair, let’s wait for Lady Karma to do her job.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

No Laughing Matter

“Good enough is not enough,” used to be the motto of Jay Chiat, the founder of the celebrated ad agency Chiat/Day. Actress Preity Zinta may not take that kindly as she’s supposedly seeing a financial analyst from Los Angeles who goes by the name Gene Goodenough.

Before our filmi press has a field day punning on his surname, let it be known that the right way to pronounce ‘Goodenough’ is ‘Good-en-oh’ and not what sounds like the fella with low standards!

There are many more English names that reek of oddness, on first impression. But a little knowledge of etymology may help us folks to appreciate things a wee better. For instance, some people believe that Goodenough is derived from Godin Haugh (meaning: Godin’s Hill), indicative, may be, of the place of origin.

Ryan Sidebottom is a cricketer whose surname often evokes a snicker. An analysis of the name history, however, puts things in perspective. Bottom is Old English for ‘valley’. So the Sidebottoms may have originally been from a place near a valley!

Similarly, Large implies ‘a generous man’. But when you baptize someone as Johnny Large, you run the risk of making him the butt of all jokes. Former tennis ace Guy Forget faced the same problem. Most people assumed that he was a forgetful chap. What they didn’t know was he was French. And his name is to be pronounced as ‘Gi Forjay’. Wherein, ‘Forget’ draws its roots from the English word ‘forge’ and cues a blacksmith ancestry.

Sometimes, surnames mean exactly what they say. Gotobed is one example. A 13th century coinage, it was a dig at someone who retires early to bed, to do things other than sleeping! One wonders how Hollywood actress Hattie Gotobed is bravely carrying the legacy. She must be meeting many jerks who might playfully tease her with the “Shall we, Gotobed?” quip.

There are many Indian surnames with the potential to cause embarrassment to the bearer. Chutiya (‘fool’ in Hindi) is the most illustrious case in point. Many take it literally and laugh. The fact of the matter is that Chutiya is one of the oldest ethnic tribes in Assam. Originally they were the ruling Sutiya clan. Sutiya actually stands for ‘glory’. Therefore to taunt the Chutiyas is just not done. Gandoo, Tevadia, Lund and Tatti are some other surnames with their own mystic logic. They are seriously not funny. Kindly laugh not, even in jest.