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Under the name "Arnold Zwicky" I have returned to the top of the list of Language Log authors, having spent some time in the guise "Zwicky Arnold" at the very bottom of the list. Let there be wild celebrations! Boundless e-Champagne and i-Bûche de Juillet for everyone!

I'm tempted to say that my months as Zwicky Arnold were a consequence of my having converted to Sinicism (of the Nominal variety) — not, of course, to be confused with Cynicism, a very different sort of thing indeed. But my Transposition to the East was merely the result of my having wearied of attracting rather a lot of e-mail from people offering things for the LLoggers to post about, often in areas I know not a thing about. Many of these were people who wanted to mail their suggestions to all twenty-something of us (I don't know the exact number right now, what with the Grammar Mob storming Language Log Plaza, deleting bloggers, moving new ones into empty positions, and all that, quite surpassing the worst excesses of the French Revolution) at once.

So they wrote to the Guy at the Top, spatially, which would be me, since Arnold edges out Barbara, Ben, and Bill, and Adam is in hiding from the hordes, a click away from visibility (or to the Guy at the Top, administratively, which would be Mark). And then I had trouble passing things on to the others, since after all, the mail had come to me, which made the topics mine.

Now I irk easily, and (as my readers will have observed) I complain a lot, so I whined away relentlessly at my colleagues until the patient Eric — he's in the clinic for an unfortunate fixation on phonology — tried to mend things, in a modest way, by moving me down the list. But he was outfoxed by the wily WordPress, which doesn't allow for hand-crafted ordering, or even (apparently) for family-name-first ordering (which introduces a number of ugly puzzles in automatic ordering). There were other possibilities, though they would have looked even stranger than "Zwicky Arnold": Visiting Professor Arnold Zwicky, under V, or Distinguished University Professor Emeritus Arnold Zwicky, under D. (I suppose I could have tried one of my many aliases. Alexander (a.k.a. Alex) Adams would scarcely have done, since Alex comes before Arnold. Ebbing Craft, Biiig Arnold (a.k.a. B.A. in P.A.), and Wooly (or Woolly, for the sticklers) Mammoth strike people as too frivolous, Rice Highland and Fox Silver as too obscure. And so on.)

I was persuaded to undergo Sinificatory (Sinific, for short) Transposition instead. Eric promised me it would only sting a little, so I steeled myself bravely and averted my eyes. And then it was done.

Now Barbara tells us that she's gotten very little mail directed at the LLoggers as a group (maybe the way people use the web has changed), so I can stop having to explain to people why my name is not like all the others.

I've had the transposition reversed, just this morning. I feel pretty good, though a bit unsteady on my feet, but it will pass, it will pass.

Barbara also noticed for the first time (in 48 years! well, we've all been busy) that my initials — like those of the fictional Arnold Zeck and the real Arnie Zane, my compatriots in ArnZistan, span the alphabet from A to Z. It took Jason Mraz a while to see the possibilities in his own family name, but now he has. (If I'd only stuck with Zwicky Arnold, I could have claimed that I'm from South Africa, or the Son of Za the Pizza Man, or something like that.)

Actually, it's more impressive, since my middle initial is M, which is as close to the middle of the alphabet as you can get, M being the 13th letter of the alphabet and there being no 13-and-a halfth letter. I got the whole AMZ package right from my father, and he got his AMZ from his father MAZ, by a reversal of the first and middle names. (Is there a pattern here?)

The latest name inversion seems to have made me a bit light-headed, and inclined to wander about topically, associating freely with any topic that comes my way. Maybe I'll go lie down for a bit.

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27 Comments »

  1. Peter Harvey said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

    Spanning the alphabet. I have a friend called Az. It is rumoured that she has a conventional forename and surname that she uses on occasion, but her sole, only, and unique real name is Az.

  2. Anne Connell said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

    I have always envied people with the intials AZ.

  3. Geoff Nunberg said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

    You're a Bendel bonnet, a Shakespeare sonnet, you're Mickey Mouse!

    [(amz) "You're the Top" has wonderful lyrics (though they've been altered again and again, in the years since the song appeared in Anything Goes, to cover changing circumstances and to suit different audiences -- as have the lyrics to "Let's Do It"), and this particular line is one of my favorites, showing the three-part pattern of many of the lines: an upscale-trendy-culture reference, a high-culture reference, and then a pop-culture reference. I am honored, Geoff.]

  4. fs said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

    Haha. I had indeed wondered why you were listed as "Zwicky Arnold" on Language Log but "Arnold Zwicky" elsewhere. Welcome back from Bizarro World, I guess…

  5. Bob Violence said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

    And here I thought you'd gone Hungarian.

  6. John Cowan said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

    I would never have thought of associating you in any way with Arnold Zeck. But now that you've planted the thought in my mind…. it reels.

  7. Eric said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 2:33 am

    This is one of the fucking best posts ever.

    [(amz) [Low bow of appreciation.] I've been working on my Campy Style for many years, and I don't get many opportunities to use it in academic settings, so I just snapped this one up.]

  8. nonpoptheorist said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 4:03 am

    Glad you've seen sense and returned to your responsibilities to society. Unlike Alan Clark, whose widow wishes to put him up against a wall and shot for desertion.

  9. Dougal Stanton said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    I had also wondered why your posts were authored by Zwicky Arnold, but the best I could assume was some Catch-22-esque Washington Irving/Irving Washington game.

    [(amz) Alas, though Arnold works fine as a forename or a surname -- when Jennifer Arnold was still a grad student at Stanford, we used to get each other's e-mail from time to time, from people trying to guess at e-addresses from first principles -- Zwicky is a dead loss as a forename. Washington and Irving go both ways, though with somewhat different social associations in the two positions.

    Maybe I should have persisted, and campaigned to make Zwicky into a forename. A gender-neutral forename, even.]

  10. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 11:32 am

    @John Cowan: Spend a couple hours with your orchids, and you'll feel better.

    Assuming nothing's happened to them, that is.

  11. Andrew Dowd said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

    I would have gone with Zwarnold Icky.

    [(amz) I don't think that has quite the -- how to put this? -- tone I was after.]

  12. army1987 said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

    @Dougal Stanton:
    I too assumed Arnold was a surname, and assumed Zwicky must be some kind of nickname. (BTW, Giordano Bruno was a 16th-century philosopher and Bruno Giordano a 20th-century football player.)

  13. Sili said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 8:45 pm

    Pity. I liked the Ebbing Craft suggestion (that's what I get for trying to read The Second Sex).

    [(amz) E.C. is the oldest of my pseudonyms, going back to some academic burlesque pieces I wrote in 1969 for Studies Out in Left Field (you remember, the volume with the Quang Phuc Dong pieces in it).]

    Welcom back. Yours in grammar,
    - John Beesbog

    [(amz) Ah, this from the author of "if I'm ever to publish, I think I'll go by "John Beesbog"" (2009).]

  14. Peter said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 12:20 am

    When I was in primary school we were told that a new student, James Crystal, was going to be joining the class. Her name was Crystal James.

  15. JFM said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 6:41 am

    Zwicky Arnold sounds like the nickname of a suave 30s gangster. Now what could "zwicky" mean as an adjective?

  16. Jonathan said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 7:24 am

    Techie note- there's at least one WordPress plug-in to allow you to change the order of names: 'My Link Order' at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/my-link-order/ . Seems to be unclear whether it's working on WordPress 3, but it works for me.

  17. Barbara Partee said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 8:08 am

    Like. ;-)

  18. Kim Darnell said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:25 am

    I get mail to Darnell Kim quite a lot, which I attribute to living in Atlanta, a majority African American city. Indeed, this has happened enough that I have imagined a life history for this interesting fellow, with his African American mother and South Korean father (e.g., after graduating from Morehouse, he joined the Peace Corps and went to the Philippines, where he became interested in health policy)…

    How might Zwicky Arnold's life course be different than Arnold Zwicky's? Any ideas?

  19. Marion Crane said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    Very entertaining read, and I did wonder about the reversal (I never pegged Zwicky as a first name, so I just figured you preferred the eastern style for some reason).

    "when Jennifer Arnold was still a grad student at Stanford, we used to get each other's e-mail from time to time"

    My husband was in a similar position once with a classmate, though with the difference that it was suggested (ad nauseam) that they should marry and my husband take his classmate's last name, so that his first and last name would be identical.

  20. Arnold Zwicky said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    JFM: "Now what could "zwicky" mean as an adjective?"

    Well, it could be the adjective Zwicky, derived from the name of one or both of the tv-and-film Zwick bothers: Joel, born 1942, director of such sitcoms as Bosom Buddies, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, and Perfect Strangers; and Ed(ward), born 1952, director of Glory, Legends of the Fall, and Blood Diamond, producer of Traffic, and co-creator of Thirtysomething (to name just a few examples of their work). As you can see, Joel inclines towards comedy, Ed towards drama, so there are a lot of ways an adjective Zwicky could go.

    Lower-case zwicky stumps me at the moment.

  21. Arnold Zwicky said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 11:30 am

    Kim Darnell: "How might Zwicky Arnold's life course be different than Arnold Zwicky's? Any ideas?"

    Hmm. First we have to work out how the name could arise. Arnold is a fairly common English surname, and also a German surname; the etymology is that of the forename Arnold (Germanic 'eagle-ruler' or 'eagle-strong'). Putting aside Benedict Arnold and the comedian Tom Arnold, we have the poet and critic Matthew Arnold (of the Great Victorian Poet firm Tennyson, Browning, and Arnold) and his father, the headmaster of Rugby School Thomas Arnold, to give a certain cultural cachet to the surname. Maybe we could go with Matthew Arnold's "affecting a combination of foppishness and Olympian grandeur".

    Zwicky as a forename is a tough nut. I suppose it would have to be one of those surnames converted to forenames, as in the New England pattern that gave us Abbott Lowell Lawrence and Abbott Lawrence Cummings. Though Zwicky as a patrician New Englander is hard to imagine ("Ah, you're one of the Boston Zwickys!").

    Maybe Zwicky Arnold ends up as a well-known philosophical poet and president of Harvard.

  22. Skullturf Q. Beavispants said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 11:44 am

    I went to school with a guy whose first name was Carlson and last name was Charlie.

  23. Dan T. said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

    I'm one of the readers who has at times experienced frustration in wanting to contact the Language Log group with some suggestion but being unsure of who to send it to; some of the Loggers can be rather hard to get, with some regularly disabling comments in their postings, and requiring quite a few clicks to manage to find contact information for them, and I'm never sure which of them is best to contact anyway.

  24. Arnold Zwicky said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

    me: "the New England pattern that gave us Abbott Lowell Lawrence and Abbott Lawrence Cummings".

    How could I have forgotten Endicott Peabody, who was governor of Massachusetts when I lived there. He is said to be the only man to have had three Massachusetts towns named after him: Endicott, Peabody, and Athol.

  25. Acilius said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    I would express my joy that in this discussion of reversible names there has not been a single appearance of "LeBron James." If I made that statement, however, it would be false, as there would have been a single appearance of "LeBron James." So I will not mention "LeBron James" a single time.

  26. Tim said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:28 am

    Another way to avoid top billing might have been to render your given name R-Nold. Very futuristic.

  27. Luc Baronian said,

    September 1, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    Arnold, since my first class with you in 99-00, where you often initialed the papers you handed us, I always had this appropriate flash when thinking of you:

    I AMZ what I AMZ.

    Sorry if it comes out as a bad pun, it's meant with the affection one vowes to an old prof. I was thinking about it on my way to school this morning for some reason, googled it and came upon this thread.

    M is for Mathew, isn't it?

    Cheers!

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