Tag Archives: Funny Names

Really Unfortunately Named Person of the Day: Æthelred the Unready

5 Oct

Poor Æthelred- he is unfortunately named for two reasons. First, that whole letter A and E together thing is really hard to do (I may or may not have to copy/paste it in every time I type his name). The letter thingy is common among early kings of England (it also freaks out all automatic spellcheckers, just saying). What kind of nickname do you give someone named Æthelred? “Reddy”? But then you’d be forced to call him Reddy the Unready, which would be weird.

The second unfortunate part of his name is pretty clear: who really wants to be reminded constantly that they’re unready? Especially when you’re the King of England? If I was the king and people were always calling me unready, there would be a lot of beheadings. Also, “unready”? Was Æthelred some sort of high-maintainence diva who was always running late?

Well, that isn’t exactly how he got the name “unready”. That is a slightly more complicated story beginning at the end of the 10th century. Æthelred was the second son of King Edgar of England. He was, however, the first son of Ælfthryth, Queen of England (told you the A-E letter combo was popular. Also, how do you pronounce that name?). Æthelred’s illegitimate older brother (Edward) took the throne after much contention following Edgar’s death. Not long after Edward took the throne, he suffered a “mysterious” death while visiting the castle of Queen Ælfthryth. With Edward out of the way, Æthelred took the throne in 978 at the age of 10 (you can see at this point why he might seem “unready”).

Throughout his reign, Æthelred had a lot of problems with Danish Viking raiders. He even fled to Normandy in 1013, relinquishing the throne (ninny). Luckily for him, he got the throne back after the Sweyn (the Danish guy who took the English throne) died only a year later.

Linguists, being the spoilsports (or cool, awesome people, whatever) that they are, decided that this translation of Old English is wrong, and that all of the historical record is wrong. According to them, our homeboy Æthelred isn’t “unready”, he is “without noble council”. Lame. I think that in this case, we should ignore the linguists and go with what he is called historically: Æthelred the Unready


Unfortunately Named Person of the Day: Emperor Pupienus

22 Sep

Even Roman Emperors cannot avoid bad names…today’s unfortunately named person of the day is the Marcus Clodius Pupienus Maximus, or just plain Emperor Pupienus.
According to Wikipedia, contemporary texts tend to refer to him incorrectly as “Maximus”, instead of his family name of Pupienus. Really? I can’t imagine why.
Despite a name good enough to grace the pages of history books, poor Pupienus somehow managed slip by under the radar. Probably because he ruled during the Year of Six Emperors, 238 AD, along with Maximus Thrax, Balbinus, and Gordian I, II, and III.
Pupienus was co-emperor with Balbinus, and they apparently did not get along. The story goes that they were in the midst of arguing with eachother when the praetorian guard came in and assassinated them both. But what I’m really wondering is if Pupienus lived long enough to have children…and pass on his fantastic family name.

Unfortunately Named Person of the Day: Ivar the Boneless

20 Sep

Back in the good old days (i.e. the Middle Ages), last names had not yet been invented. Instead, people just went around being called their first name and then some piece of information that was relevant to them. For example: Louis the Fat…because he was fat (real person, I swear) or Thomas, John’s Son (precursor to the modern Johnson). Of course, you didn’t really get to pick your name, or else there would have been tons of Hildebrand the Awesomes or Guibert the Incredibles running around everywhere. As a result, some of history’s characters have ended up being named really unfortunate things. Today’s person is the 9th century Viking warrior Ivar the Boneless.

I var the Boneless was a fairly notable Viking leader an warrior- he ran successful raids/attack on England in the 860s/870s and led the Great Heathen Army (I assume they didn’t name themselves either) alongside his brothers, Hubbe and Halfdene (also excellently named people).

Ah, but why is Ivar Boneless? Good question! The answer is: no one is really sure. There are, however, some main theories:
1) He was very flexible, which led the brilliant people of the middle ages to guess that he had no bones.
2) He had brittle bone disease. This was proposed by a person with brittle bone disease. It is unlikely, given the record of his battle/combat, especially accounts of him as a berserker that he could have had such a crippling condition.
3) He had some impotence issues. This is actually the most likely theory, at least for the name. It didn’t necessarily have to be true to have been something his warriors called him. There is a long tradition of calling your war leader impotent: Roman soldiers returning to the city victorious after battle used to yell out bawdy things about thier leader.
4) He was carried on a shield by his men after victorious battle, which made him look like he didn’t have legs. Which probably freaked people out and spawned the story. In this situation, boneless = legless, which is a pretty linguistically sound jump to make.