Category Archives: linguistics


One of the great things about the impending presidency of Barack Hussein Obama is that his name is awesome. I guess that’s what you get when your last name begins with an open syllable (meaning that it starts with a vowel). I predict that a whole new subfield of onomastics dedicated to the study of Barack Obama’s name will arise. This will be called obamanymy: the study of names derived from Obama.


Of course, the opposition started it out with their [idiotic] chant of “Nobama,” but there are so many more possibilities! For example, here are a few fun variations:

  • D’ohbama (When you do something stupid)
  • Foebama (When the president is your enemy)
  • Gobama! (Cheering him on)
  • Growbama (He helps the economy!)
  • Hobama (When being a hobo)
  • Jobama (Jomama just got superseded)
  • Lobama (When he’s being highly cerebral)
  • Mobama (When you just can’t get enough)
  • Quobama (Doin’ a little quid pro quo)
  • Roebama (When he’s talking abortion)
  • Sobama (That’s how you start a conversation with the president. Sobama, I was thinkin’….)
  • Snowbama (Winter in D.C.)
  • Throwbama (WWE wrestling move)
  • Toebama (When he toes the party line)
  • Towbama (When his car breaks down)
  • Whoabama (When he’s just too cool)
  • XOXObama (Hugs ‘n’ kisses at the end of a presidential directive)
  • Yobama! (To get his attention)

In fact, these seem to be the only presidents who had a name that started with a vowel that wasn’t commonly abbreviated (unlike James A. Garfield) or omitted: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Barack Obama. (Ulysses S. Grant’s name begins orthographically with a vowel, but phonologically with a consonant.) Some of those would arguably be more fun than others.

Obama also ends with an open syllable, facilitating creation of new words. In fact, I’ve already done this several times, including obamanist and obamanymy. But obamanyms aren’t the only examples of this phenomenon. In fact, a larger number of presidents have had names that end with an open syllable: James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, George W. [Double-u or Dubya] Bush, Barack Obama. But at least to me nothing quite seems to roll off the tongue and meld with prefixes, suffixes, and compounds and overall lend itself to neologicization like the name of Barack Obama.

Etymology of Obama’s Names

Barack == Barak: Arabic meaning “blessing”

Hussein == Husayn == diminuitive of Hasan: Means “handsome”, derived from Arabic hasuna “to be beautiful, to be good”. Hasan was the son of Ali and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. He was poisoned by one of his wives and is regarded as a martyr by Shiite Muslims.

Obama: From a rare [Kenyan] Luo given name, based on a word meaning “crooked” or “slightly bent”. It was possibly originally given to a baby who had an arm or leg that looked slightly bent immediately after birth. It could also possibly have been given to a child who was born in the breech position.

So, to sum it up, President-Elect Obama’s name augurs a time of good, beautiful, but perhaps crooked or slightly bent blessing for our country. That doesn’t sound too bad 😉


A super-quick, late-night post:

Craziness of project for school, craziness of trying (with varying degrees of success) to keep the dinner group organized, craziness with temple committee stuff, craziness starting a poetry club…. Craziness! Did I say craziness?

All of that contrasted with The Most Relaxing Weekend EVAR (to vernaculate). I attribute the relaxatiousness of the weekend to a combination of watching General Conference, and a drive in the canyon to see the colorful trees with some friends.

Things I wish I could be working on right now but just haven’t gotten to:

  • statistical analysis of collocations in the rongorongo corpus, plus development of GUI to facilitate it.
  • finishing the story I’ve been working on for the last few months.
  • reading “Poetry: An Introduction”.
  • really learning about graduate programs and getting my applications started.
  • solidifying/actually learning information theory and probability theory.

As the Spanish-speakers say: ¡Uf!

And, lastly, I’m introducing a new feature to at least this post. Here it is:

This Post Contributes to the Endless Self-renewal of Language By:

Promoting Uncommon Verbifications

  • to vernaculate: to use the vernacular.

Coining New Words / Nonces

  • relaxatiousness: the quality of inducing one to experience a sensation of relaxation.