Published on November 17th, 2017 | by Alan Cross1
The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 801: 60 Band Name Origins in 60 Minutes
As someone who churns out tens of thousands of words every week–emails, blog posts, business documents, tweets, radio scripts–I’ve developed a fascination with words. And, for whatever reason, there seems to be a special place in my brain for names, especially the origins of names.
If you’re into the study of word origins, you’re into etymology. If you’re into the origins of names, that field is called onomastics.
Take, for example, the name Ignatius, an ancient name meaning “fiery one” that dates back to the Etruscans, the civilizations that came before the Romans. A lot of dudes were named Ignatius over the centuries.
When the Spanish adopted the name, Ignatius morphed into Ignacio, which was often abbreviated as Nacho. Which brings us to a night in 1943.
Ignacio Anaya lived in Piedras Negras, a Mexican town just over the border from Eagles Pass, Texas, home to a US military base. One night, some Yankee soldiers poured into his restaurant after a night of drinking and asked for something to eat. With almost nothing in the kitchen, Ignacio, being a good host, whipped something up featuring deep-fried tortillas cut into triangles, covered in melted cheese and served with pickled jalapeno peppers.
The soldiers loved the improvised snack so much that they named it after their host: Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya. Nachos have been drinking/hangover food ever since.
But there’s another part of Ignatius story. Back over in Europe in Bavaria, Ignatius was transformed into Ignatz. The diminutive of that is Nazi. Because Ignatz was a popular name in a backward part of Germany, Nazi became the word that described a poorly-educated peasant from the Bavarian countryside. This is the same part of Germany that gave rise to a political party called Nationalsocializmus–National Socialists–led by Adolf Hitler. Those who thought that Hitler was a clown insisted on abbreviating Nationalsocializmus as Nazis. It was a taunt, an insult. But Hitler and his crew turned everything around and took ownership of the insult Nazi and–well, things turned out badly for the planet.
Isn’t that kind of cool? That there could be a solid connection between something as different as German fascists and a plate of high-calorie junk food?
What if we apply this sort of etymological and onomastical research to the names of musical groups? It’s a field of study that I call bandomynology.
Songs heard on this show:
Cage the Elephant, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked
Nine Inch Nails, Head Like a Hole
Poets (Live), Tragically Hip
Jane’s Addiction, Jane Says
Stone Temple Pilots, Plush
White Stripes, The Hardest Button to Button
Ramones, Judy is a Punk
White Zombie, Thunderkiss ’65
Eric Wilhite provides us with this handy playlist.
Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes or wherever you get your on-demand audio.
The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:
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