Xy McXface wins again

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Mary Divine, "Plowy McPlowFace plows through the competition to win snowplow naming contest", Pioneer Press 3/2/2021:

After all the votes were tallied, it wasn’t even close. Plowy McPlowFace won the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s inaugural “Name a Snowplow” contest with 65,292 votes. The next-closest vote-getter was Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya, which garnered 29,457 votes.

[For those who don't know ope,  Wiktionary glosses it as "(Midwest) an exclamation of surprise; oops", and Tod Van Luling discussed it at length a couple of years ago in the Huffington Post.]

Plowy McPlowFace will soon be plowing streets in the Metro District; Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya will make its home in District 4 in west-central Minnesota.

The other winning names, in order of vote totals, and their future homes are: Duck Duck Orange Truck in District 1 (northeastern Minnesota); Plow Bunyan in District 2 (northwestern Minnesota); Snowbi Wan Kenobi in District 6 (southeastern Minnesota); F. Salt Fitzgerald in District 7 (south-central Minnesota); Darth Blader in District 3 (central Minnesota); and The Truck Formerly Known As Plow in District 8 (southwestern Minnesota).

MnDOT officials invited people in mid-December to submit possible names for snowplows. Among the submissions were a number of Minnesota-themed names, including Joe Plow-er, Justin More-snow, Kent Brrr-bek, Raspberry Brrr-et and Purple Snow.

One of the most popular suggestions was the phrase “Abolish ICE,” according to an analysis by the Minnesota Reformer, an independent news website, which obtained the almost 23,000 entries in a public-records request. The name, a play on the rallying cry of critics of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, ranked No. 2 among the entries, the Reformer determined.

But MnDOT officials excluded it from its list of 50 finalists.

At least in this case the authorities cancelled a popular choice to avoid political controversy, rather than simply because the proposal was insufficiently serious. In contrast, Britain's Natural Environment Research Council decided to reject the popular vote for "Boaty McBoatface" as a name for its new polar research vessel, choosing instead RRS Sir David Attenborough. (For more, see Uri Friedman, "The Lessons of Boaty McBoatface", The Atlantic 5/11/2016.)

There was some LLOG discussion of the general Xy McXface construction and its relatives at the time. Parsey McParseface is still working, though I haven't heard about it recently.

[h/t Doreen]




  1. IMarvinTPA said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 8:06 am

    Surprised this didn't get a category of Wordy McWordface.
    I'm glad they just rolled with it.

  2. Doreen said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 8:24 am

    Across the river from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune sells T-shirts bearing the slogan, "Ope. I'm just gonna sneak past ya real quick."
    Judging by the range of T-shirts available here, apparently Wisconsinites say "ope," too.

  3. Beck Laxton said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 11:43 am

    I love the creativity of those names, and the fact that everyone just loved puns. When I worked in magazine publishing, one of the few undiluted pleasures for the sub-editors was thinking of terrible puns for article headings. I contend that the reason DAT was such a popular tape format was because it was such a fruitful source of puns.

    May I make an unrelated report? I often trawl through the Language Log archive to post interesting articles on social media, in an attempt to get people hooked on linguistics (instead of having endless dreary nit-picking sessions about "correct usage"). I was trying to find citations for use of singular 'they' in Chaucer: everybody mentions them without actually quoting.

    However, the search link for the old archive now leads to a Google advice page, so something has broken.

  4. ktschwarz said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 1:34 pm

    That's been broken for years. When I want to search the old archives, I use the search modifier "site:itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/".

    The Chaucer example is in Linguistic reaction at The New Yorker (2016), and probably other posts.

  5. Cervantes said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 2:30 pm

    "At least in this case the authorities cancelled a popular choice to avoid political controversy, rather than simply because the proposal was insufficiently serious." There are worse reasons for cancelling a popular choice. The city of Fort Wayne Indiana held an on-line poll to name a new civic center, and the winner was beloved, late long-time mayor Harry Balz. He had a long list of accomplishments for the city, serving two lengthy non-consecutive terms, and he was in fact arguably the most appropriate candidate. But the current administration thought it would be embarrassing to have his name on the civic center so they named it something else and just put up a plaque for him instead.

    There was also a guy named Lipschitz who Facebook banned for using his real name.

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 3:14 pm

    If I footnote the ones I know (for non-US readers, of course), will other people get the other two?

    Duck Duck Orange Truck: Apparently from Duck Duck Moose truck, the simulated monster trucks one builds and competes with in the computer game Duck Duck Moose (which is named after the children's chasing game Duck Duck Goose). I looked that one up.

    Plow Bunyan: Paul Bunyan, superhuman lumberjack of folklore and fakelore in the northern U.S. and Canada.

    Snowbi Wan Kenobi: Probably no need for this one, but Obi-Wan Kenobi, wise old man in Star Wars.

    F. Salt Fitzgerald: F. Scott Fitzgerald, eminent American writer of the 1920s and '30s, from Minnesota.

    Darth Blader: Darth Vader, Star Wars villain (probably unnecessary again).

    The Truck Formerly Known as Plow: The pop star Prince, who was from Minnesota, stopped using his name for a time and asked to be referred to by a complicated symbol instead. Many people and news outlets called him "The artist formerly known as Prince".

    Kent Brr-beck: Kent Hrbek, star baseball player for the Minnesota Twins, plus "Brr", supposedly what people say when they're cold.

    Raspberry Brrr-et: "Raspberry Beret", one of Prince's hit songs.

    Purple Snow: "Purple Rain", ditto, as well as the title of the album it was on and the movie he starred in.

    That leaves Joe Plow-er and Justin More-snow.

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 5:00 pm

    Jerry F.:

    Justin More-Snow may allude to Justin Morneau, a first baseman (and above-average home-run hitter) who played for the Minnesota Twins from 2003 through 2013. FULL DISCLOSURE: I found this candidate by rummaging through wikipedia's list of prominent persons named Justin looking for prospects, not just off the top of my head.

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 5:06 pm

    Separately, I was advised in a social-media thread about this today that apparently what is "Duck Duck Goose" in most of the U.S. is "Duck Duck Gray Duck" (closer to "Orange Truck") in Minnesota. And that claim is substantiated here: https://www.startribune.com/why-do-minnesotans-play-duck-duck-gray-duck-instead-of-duck-duck-goose/502474351/

  9. Alexander Browne said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 5:39 pm

    Native Minnesotan here, AMA. (I've lived in both Twin Cities!)

    @J.W. Brewer
    That's correct about Duck Duck Gray Duck. I'm not really into sportsball, but I think you're right about Justin Morneau.

    @Jerry Friedman
    Similarly, Joe Plow-er must be Joe Mauer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Mauer

  10. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 6:03 pm

    J. W. Brewer and Alexander Browne: Thanks for the information and the correction. I had actually heard of Duck Duck Gray Duck at some point, now that you mention it.

  11. milu said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 8:32 pm

    extra context on "The Truck Formerly Known As Plow": Prince was from Minnesota, which makes this pun extra relevant, and also his renaming to a symbol was not (just) some zany popstar stunt:

    "He explained that he had changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to emancipate himself from his contract with Warner Bros., and that he had done it out of frustration because he felt his own name now belonged to the company." (wikipedia)

  12. VV said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 8:53 pm

    Another native Minnesotan here chiming in to confirm that it’s definitely a “duck duck gray duck” reference.

    In addition, to state the obvious since no one has done so, “Abolish ICE” in this context is a fantastic pun, in addition to a political slogan.

  13. Brett said,

    March 3, 2021 @ 10:48 pm

    Some while after Prince changed his name (but see below) to that unpronounceable glyph, after people had gotten used to calling him "the artist formerly known as 'Prince,'" he announced that he would prefer to be known as just "the artist." Moreover, when he finally got out of the recording contract that he so detested, he also announced that he had actually secretly been "Prince" all along. This was, of course, the truth, since he never changed his legal name, "Prince Rogers Nelson," and was evidently still known by his given name "Prince" among his friends all along.

  14. Doreen said,

    March 4, 2021 @ 4:35 am

    Yet another native Minnesotan here, and I instantly made a connection to "Duck duck gray duck."
    This variant of the game allows for strategic play, in which the person who is "it" goes around reeling off a long list of colors from the biggest box of Crayola crayons: "Magenta duck, chartreuse duck, burnt umber duck, …" This causes the other players to get bored and lose focus. Then the crafty player can casually sneak in a "gray duck" with the same intonation as the previous list items and break into a run, gaining a good head start around the circle before the tagged person realizes what just happened.

  15. Tom Ace said,

    March 4, 2021 @ 1:58 pm

    Harry Baals (mayor of Fort Wayne mentioned in an earlier comment) figured in the best redirect notice I've seen on Wikipedia:

    "Hairy balls" redirects here. For the mayor of Fort Wayne, see Harry Baals.

    It's gone now but is archived at

    SpaceX calls their Starlink ground terminal "Dishy McFlatface".

  16. iain said,

    March 4, 2021 @ 3:02 pm

    sort of related – naming road gritters & following them on line has become a popular pastime in Scotland – the names are inventive and various and can be seen on traffic scotland trunk road gritter site.

  17. Alexander Browne said,

    March 4, 2021 @ 3:50 pm

    Completely related! This Minnesota contest, and all the others, started after the naming of gritters in Scotland became known here recently. I remember hearing this NPR story, for example,(https://www.npr.org/2020/12/16/947261121/what-scots-call-their-snowplows). The contest started the next day. This Star Tribune article (https://www.startribune.com/mndot-launches-snowplow-naming-contest/573419131/) links to this article from a few days earlier: https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/scotland-snow-plows-names-titles/

  18. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 4, 2021 @ 5:52 pm

    milu: Just mentioning that I did say Prince was from Minnesota.

    It may interesting that Bob Dylan didn't make the cut. (Neither did, say, The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.)

  19. Philip Anderson said,

    March 14, 2021 @ 2:41 am

    @Alexander Browne:
    Welsh snow gritters to be named by public in competition https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56322335

  20. Neil Dolinger said,

    March 14, 2021 @ 1:23 pm

    “ It may interesting that Bob Dylan didn't make the cut. (Neither did, say, The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.)”

    If the state has a fleet of tractor-trailers, one of them could be re-named “Lord of the Rigs”.

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