How to Name EverythingIf you want to put two words together for some kind of dramatic effect or if you want to create a new word that is a variation on an existing word and that word can justify itself, go ahead. But I know for a fact that you have no idea what you’re doing, and you’d best leave it someone slightly more qualified. Here is an example of a word that does not exist, but I created it to describe something perfectly, and there was no word for it already: overreactionary. It’s a word I coined to describe myself, because whenever I am provoked, I always overreact. A reactionary is a person who doesn’t act, they only react. So, to combine “overreact” and “reactionary” to make “overreactionary” is perfectly acceptable. You know what I mean as soon as you see the word.
Another example is one I also made up, “twitticism,” which is a joke made by an idiot. We all know a few people who constantly make bad jokes, then laugh at them, as if we might be fooled by the laughter into thinking something funny had been said. So, “twit” + “witticism” = “twitticism.” I know exactly what some of you are thinking, because I am smarter than you and can anticipate the behavior of intelligent creatures very well. You think I am talking about Rich Hall’s “Sniglets,” those “funny” words that are made up to describe things that don’t actually need their own word. I mean, unless you are regularly discussing the crusted ketchup that hardens near the top of the bottle, and you just can’t take saying that long descriptive sentence any longer, knock yourself out. Go ahead and waste your time trying to convince the rest of the world that it is “crustup” or whatever hilarious thing Mr. Hall came up with. I would like to posit that there is no need for a new word to describe said crust, because who gives a shit except one unemployed comedian who has run out of material?
I realize that many of our fellow Americans who are descended from Africans carry with them a genetic history and culture that is primarily oral in nature (mmm, oral). [Since I have a totally unrelated thought, and no real desire to flesh it out into a story of substance, let me get this out of my head. I would like to state, unequivocally and for the record, that since Homo sapiens and many of the lower orders of human-like creatures have their origins in the fertile soil of the African continent, every single person living in America today can say that they are, in fact, African-Americans. The thing that is so insidious about this form of self-labeling is that it makes the African part primary and the American part secondary. You live here, motherfucker, so let’s just say the American part first, okay? This pisses off a lot of people, but not me. You can call yourself anything you like. I simply call everyone whatever color they are. My name is Pasty, nice to make your acquaintance.
My family, as far as I know, are Russian peasant stock as far back as a human could trace. Sure, my grandfather, Knute Sven Schanzer, was all Swedish, and I am a lot like him, but for the sake of simplicity, I say my family is from Russia. If you want to know where I’m from, it’s New York Fucking City, bitch. I am also way too busy with the fucking PRESENT to waste my time trying to divine whether or not aristocracy spilled seed on my family tree at some time in history. Even worse than people who waste time and money tracing their family’s history are those total fucking nimrods who are not content to trace their physical body’s lineage, but insist that their totally fictitious “soul” has not only been here before, but done amazingly cool things. And after being a courtesan in Elizabethan times and a Greek philosopher, you mean to tell me that this same soul is satisfied restocking the sale racks of clothing at Kmart in Wichita? Good luck next time around, honey.] Because of the long tradition of orality, many of “those people” are under the delusion that they can just make up new words, put them in a rap song, spend all their advance money making a flashy video, and before you know it, we’re getting jiggy with that new word. The sad fact is, once you have committed to this linguistic fallacy, you are doomed to seeing your very language crumble beneath your feet. There is nothing sadder than using an invented black word a year after it’s gone out of fashion. And as far as I am concerned, the dictionaries should adopt a wait-and-see attitude before minting “phat” in the next edition.
While I am on the subject, let me also say that spelling things phonetically, instead of how the vagaries of usage have determined they should be spelled, is a risky proposition. For example, while going through the CD singles in HMV recently, I came across one by something called “Smif N Wessun” with a thing called “Wreckonize.” I say “something” because as far as I am concerned, a band is comprised of different people who play “instruments.” And I say “thing,” because a song is composed of lyrics and a MELODY. I took music appreciation to meet girls in college, and sadly, 95% of rap doesn’t qualify as music because it has no melody, just a repeated beat. By the definition I learned, the expression “rap music” is an oxymoron. As much as it pains me to admit it, songs that sample the entire melody of an established song do qualify as songs, but as far as I am concerned, every song like that should be considered a cover, not an original. Do you really think that when an asshole like MC Hammer adds “You can’t touch this!” to “Superfreak” by Rick James he is in some way making something original or new? If so, wow! And you can read? Awesome! Oh, wait, too far off-topic again.
So, I’d guess that Smif N Wessun are meaning to call themselves Smith & Wesson, like the gun maker, and the name of this ditty should be “Recognize,” if I am to understand their meaning. But, because they are trying to reclaim the language, or to reinvent it for their own purposes, or they are just too stupid to know how the words are actually spelled (this one gets my vote most of the time), they actually print the totally made-up word “Wreckonize” on their CD. I assume the record company people went to high school. I would guess that the people at the printing plant making the labels don’t care either way. But I would think, at some point, someone would say, “Hey, Mr. Smif, Mr. Wessun, do you realize that there is a typographical error on your recordings?” To which, I would guess, they would reply, “It’s like that, knowwhatumsayin’? You know, like back in the day, knowwhatumsayin’?” The sad part, to me, is that I am sure there are a few people out there whose only exposure to the written word comes on their arrest reports and on the labels of the CDs they steal, and these poor schmucks will go the rest of their lives thinking these incorrect spellings are correct. It behooves us all to point out when things are being spelled or said wrong, because it is only because we share a common language that we are able to communicate at all. If we lose that, we might as well go see Smith & Wesson to settle our misunderstandings in the future. I know, some of you are saying, “Damn, Jøsh, that’s some racist shit there.” Well, guess what, stupid? The same goes for wiggers, who, if you ask me, are worse, because they don’t have any convenient excuses. And for those of you who may worry that what I have to say on the subject may be poorly received, let me remind you that the “people” I am referring to DON’T READ THE FUCKING MENU AT BURGER KING, so they sure as shit are not going to spend their crack money to buy the rantings of an overeducated, hyperarticulate cultural snob like me. Besides, if they got this far, I am sure I have brought them around to my way of thinking by now.
To all of my kind and loving readers: If you absolutely have to have children, I would suggest that you go to a bicycle store before your final decision is made about the kid’s name. Check the little license plates they make for bicycles, and please, for fuck’s sake, try to find a name there. And if at all possible, stick to the normal spelling. You know why? Because just because you think a name is unique and meaningful, it does not mean that your kid will. Your kid will find it a huge hassle if no one can ever pronounce their name, and they will be even more annoyed if people can say it correctly, but always spell it wrong because you decided that the normal spelling was just “too common.” If your child finds their given name too pedestrian or boring, s/he can change it whatever way they see fit. If you still feel too limited by those choices, find a literary reference (this excludes Bruce & Demi Moore, who named one of their kids Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird, which to me is one of the worst names ever. I mean, why not just call the kid Boo Radley or Atticus, you fucking dopes?), or someone in your family who has a nice name and use one of those. In fact, I think the only legitimate purpose of the Bible is to give people appropriate names. But you notice they always skip Judas, Pilate and Moses. Oh, wait. I used to know a Moses, he was black. See, I think my name is relatively easy, and yet I am driven to distraction by how often people can’t pronounce it. It’s really simple. Jøsh. Rhymes with gosh, or even squash, if you must know. And Saitz, well, that’s easy, right? Here’s a little rhyme you can use to remember it by, “Jøsh Saitz hates Bill Gates.” Hear all the nice rhymes?
Right now you’re probably saying, “Hey dick, aren’t you the pretentious jerkoff who spells his name with one of them o’s with a slash through it?” Fuck, yeah, I am. And because I love you so dearly, I would like to tell you why. My name is Joshua David Saitz. I was born in East Meadow, New York on November 27, 1969. My grandfather, who I loved dearly, died when I was still a teenager. As I said before, he was the only one in the family who was not Russian, he was Swedish. At the time, I was reading a lot of Søren Kierkegaard’s philosophy. Since he was Scandinavian [he was from Denmark and my grandfather was born in Copenhagen, Denmark] as well, and because I liked the look of it, and because I wanted to pay a small tribute to my grandfather, I changed my name to Jøsh. It reminds me of him whenever I see it. The thing is, I don’t ask anyone else to do it my way. It is entirely up to you. My friends spell it my way because that’s how I spell it, but you can call me anything you like, including “asshole.” See, it may be a little pretentious to you, but when I came up with it, I meant it as a tribute, and I see no reason to forget my grandfather just because more than a decade has passed since he died. I guess I could go to his grave, except he has none. His ashes are in a box in my mom’s house. So I still see him from time to time, and I know that he would’ve liked it. If I really wanted to impress you, I’d show you my dick, not change the spelling of my name.
When it comes time to get married, let me make things easy on you. There is nothing more annoying than a fucking hyphen. Okay, please, put aside your petty grievances with John Tesh, who is, granted, more annoying than a hyphenated name, but still. My parents divorced when I was seven, and eventually my mom decided to go back to her maiden name. It caused all kinds of hassles for me growing up that my dad was Saitz and my mom wasn’t. My mom has since remarried and now has a third name. I mention this only so you don’t think that I exclude people from criticism just because they’re related to me. I hate having to change my fucking address every few years and I can’t even imagine having to tell everyone I know about my new last name. Luckily for me, I’ve got testicles, and in this man’s world, I get to keep this name forever. I plan on taking it pretty far, so I’m used to it. By the time you read this, I’ll be married and my wife will also be a Saitz. This is not because I am a pushy asshole, a chauvinist or that I think my name is so goddamn great. I always told myself that if I met someone that I wanted to marry and they had a cooler surname than mine, I’d gladly change my name to hers. I swear. My brother plans on making plenty of little Saitzes into the next millennium, so I won’t have to worry about the family name dying with me. Besides, how arrogant is that to think the world needs more of me? I am so fucking superior it’s scary, and I still don’t think it’s important to keep my genes on this planet. Rather than passing the mantle to the next generation, I’ll make something happen with the name myself, and that’ll have to do. I’m not going to have kids just so they can compensate for my (non-existent) shortcomings. On some level I was hoping marry a Sloan, a Windsor or a Parker or something else that sounded vaguely English or tweedy and then I wouldn’t seem like a damn dirty jew. My wife had a very cute last name, Hunsucker, but people used to goof on it. Why would anyone choose to be a target? So she’s a Saitz, like me. And, in the future, should we decide to breed (we like Julian Graham for a boy, and if it’s a girl, we’ll take a cue from the Chinese and hold her head underwater in the bathtub), everyone will have the same FAMILY name because we will be a family. See how easy that is?
Finally, on the subject of names, let’s all try to make it easier for everyone. If you happen to come from a country where surnames are really long, or can be made up of seven consonants in a row, please do your best to Anglicize them. That means that when you decide to become a permanent American, it behooves you to become fully American. If any of your names are more than 25 letters, change them. If your name cannot be pronounced simply and easily by most people who read it, change it. If your name is something that is easily goofed on, like Butkiss, Oral, Assman or Newt, please change it, for your own sake. There was a girl that I used to date (and my friend Peter had her, too) and her real name was Gina Cramp. Whenever I would get mad at her, I would add “va” to the beginning of her name to make it Vagina Cramp. Sure, I’m terribly clever, but Cramp is a hideous name and adding Gina to it will ensure that only assholes like me will fuck her, and you don’t want that for your daughters, do you?
If you want to do any kind of creative work or art, do us all a favor and use your real name, or find a name you like and change it before you get famous. You want to know why? Because all you have in this world is your name, so you should try to make something happen with it. There are some cases where I understand why a name had to be changed. For example, Michael J. Fox’s middle name is actually Andrew (please, don’t ask, I’m a mental patient, okay?), but when he started his acting career, he realized that teenybopper mags would scream the headline “Michael, A Fox!” so he changed his name. The actor Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas, but there was already an asshole in the Screen Actors Guild with that name, so he had to change it so he could act in movies.
One of the many reasons my zine is called Negative Capability is that there’s no way to screw it up. It’s not called The Negative Capability. It’s not all lowercase. It’s not all capitals except for a letter or two. And, best of all, both words are spelled correctly. I can’t tell you how fucking lame it is when people don’t follow these simple rules. The poet e.e. cummings didn’t even mean to be pretentious when he wrote his name in all lowercase, it was actually a miscommunication between him and his printer. But he did it long before your parents were born, and you’re not being cool or original when you follow his lead by spelling your name in all lowercase letters. Try to think of something new all by yourself, just like he did, okay? I am also sick to death of people who insist on spelling everything with a “z” substituted for an “s,” like some asshole who wrote to me just the other day.
I happen to really like Skull, a funny, angry zine from upstate NY by a girl who goes by the nom-de-zine Sal. I’ve even contributed a story to her new issue. I really like Sal herself (she’s told me her real name), who seems like a humble, funny, misunderstood young person, like me. She has a pseudonym for the same reason my friend Ninjalicious of Infiltration has one: they’re discussing ideas and activities that could make people want to arrest or hurt them because of their words. [Ninj turned out to be a two-faced asshole but I buried him deep] But there are so many others who come up with stupid names for themselves or give themselves phony titles like Rev. or Brother or something equally stupid. Reading this right now, you know that I’m telling you how it is and not hiding behind some lame-ass made up name, right? My name is Jøsh. I’m for real. You should also know that every single person in my life will be getting a copy of this, so there is no way I’d even try to lie because all the people in my life would call me on it.
So, to all those people out there who feel the need (for whatever reason) to hide behind a pseudonym, don’t worry, we’ll all like you just the same with your real name. My other concern related to this is that some goddamn thieving asshole could go around with copies of your zine with the pseudonym and say that they’re you and there will be no way for you to prove them wrong. The worst crime I think a writer can commit is plagiarism, but it happens all the time. If I keep writing and putting my real name out there, and threatening anyone who might even think of claiming credit for my work, there’s a good chance that after a while, people might recognize my “style” or my “voice” without ever even seeing my name. But they’ll know my name, simply because I have spent a lot of time working hard to associate my good name with my good work. When you get right down to it, isn’t one of the many reasons that you absolutely despise those whores in U2 because Paul Hewson thinks he is someone named Bono and that boring bald hack Dave Evans thinks he is The Edge? I prefer the names Bozo and Baldy for those two dicks, and you should, too.
Not everyone gets to start their own business and it takes hard work, perseverance and a killer attitude to make a business successful. The reason you start a business should be very simple: You’re tired of working for assholes. I relate, man, I really do! But when it comes time to pick a name for your company, do yourself a huge favor and find a name that MEANS SOMETHING. Even if it’s a cliché, even if it is obscure, even if it only means something to you, please find something meaningful. You may know the charming and vicious Kris Kane from the alt.zines newsgroup and his incredibly awesome zine Retard and the company he owns has a great fucking name—Menace Publishing & Manufacture. You may think Quentin Tarantino is a douche, but A Band Apart is a cool name for his production company. You may agree with me that Jim Cameron should just make movies and keep his stupid mouth shut, but his company, Lightstorm Entertainment, has a cool goddamn name. Even me, Jøsh Saitz, a lowly zine publisher, has a cool name for his zine, Negative Capability. It means something, and not just to me.
Here’s where people always go wrong. The owners of some companies think, for reasons of stupidity, shortsightedness, or just plain ego, that their company should bear their name or their initials. That is so weak and so tired and so fucking pathetic. The junkie’s dad used to have a company that was named his initials with the bonus bullshit “& Associates.” Want to know why I feel this way? Because if you use your name, it may very well last beyond your lifetime, but you will never become famous just because your name is the same as some huge company. Think of some companies you know offhand where you also know the name of the guy in charge. Microsoft has Bill Gates. Did he call it Gatesoft? No. Even though he is a jumbo asshole, at least he didn’t sicken the world with a company called Billware. Even if it is just a consulting firm, a real estate agency or a fucking deli, spend some time and effort choosing a meaningful name.
Let me put it to you another way. Would you rather buy a record from Fat Wreck Chords or A&M Records (which gets its name from the last initials of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss)? At least Fat Wreck is trying to do something cool. I’m still not sure I’ve convinced you, so let me try it from another angle. You’ve heard of Heinz, right? They make ketchup and some other sauces. Do you know the founding Heinz’s first name? Do you know where he was from, what he looked like or whether or not he had a vestigial tail? Of course not, and yet, you know his last name, and his company. My point is, here’s a guy who must’ve done something right, who has a name and a company and a product known the world over, and still, no one knows a goddamn thing about him. The reason we know Bill Gates is because he is such a geeky little piece of shit, not because his company bears his name.
I’ll try one last way to convince you. Sometimes you start a company and use your last name as the company’s name. Eventually, that name gets to be more and more well-known and the company becomes a success. Then you decide to sell your stake in the company and move on. Who’s to say that the new owners won’t start crushing kittens into soup and making machine guns that all have your name on them? You can’t stay around forever and even if you leave the company to your kids, they could be a bunch of fuckups who go on to ruin your good name. If you just leave your name to refer to your life’s work, you can control how it’s used as long as you want.
If you already write for a magazine, publish a zine of your own or even just a dinky little web site, and you have an article that needs a title, please, for fuck’s sake, don’t ever use fucking puns! Even worse than those lame-o assholes are those writers who try to make a reference to something else by making a title that is not only grammatically incorrect, but makes no sense when read literally. Confused? I’m a little disappointed. I love Entertainment Weekly because I can read the whole thing in the bathtub in half an hour and I’m full to the brim with even more useless information. But goddamn it if they can’t follow this simple rule. It’s not impressive to use puns, it is totally fucking lame.
Let me give you some examples from an issue I saved just for this purpose. A story on The X-Files is called “Xtrapolation,” which as far as I know, is not a word, and likely to encourage those on the fringes of the reading revolution to think it is actually a word. Why not just spell it right? Why waste time trying so hard to be clever? A story about documentaries is called “Doc Holiday,” which is terribly clever, but see, if there’s an explosion of documentaries, then they aren’t on “holiday” now, are they? Sure, it’s a reference to the man Doc Holliday, but what does that have to do with documentaries? Nothing. In the same issue there’s a long story about Robert Downey, Jr. called “Downey and Out in Beverly Hills,” about the actor’s life in jail. The title is a reference to that piece of shit movie Down and Out In Beverly Hills, but wait. The jail is in LA county, Downey lives in Hollywood and he was sentenced in Malibu. Nowhere in the story is there a mention of Beverly Hills. In addition, “Downey and Out” makes no literal sense. Just “Down and Out” would, but they have to try so hard to be clever. Their review of A Price Above Rubies, a movie about hardcore Jews, is called “Designer Jewry,” which is meant to be a play on the expression, “designer jewelry,” but is neither funny nor interesting. It’s just sad. They feel this sick need to stretch every story’s headline just to make a bad joke. It’s fucking pathetic. They’re not the only ones (attention, Details: do us all a favor and stop invoking the name of the best fucking movie ever made, Blade Runner, to talk about razors, or ice skaters or some other empty, worthless piece of shit, okay?), but they are the worst ones, and I would just like to beg them, right now, to please give it a rest. And while I’ve got your attention, stop printing so many goddamn suckass letters. There’s nothing more boring than reading the same letter every issue, written by some fucking lame-ass shut-in from the Midwest: “Dear EW – I was just about to despair until I saw the beautiful (insert flavor of the week) on your cover. Thanks so much! S/he’ll be going up on my wall now! (Because I have no fucking life outside fawning over attractive strangers that I see on TV.)”
I’d also like to single out the excellent Maxim magazine (even though they never responded to the free copy of NegCap #1 and suckass praise I sent them) for coming up with great titles. A recent issue featured stories called, “Die Laughing” (jokes), “Jugs of Justice” (the new Hooters comic book), “Crash Course” (car racing), “Are You a Man or a Wuss?” (duh!) and my personal favorite, “Secret Servicing” (about the chicks who’ve sucked Bill Clinton’s bent dick).
When it comes to television shows, the content of the show should always be superior to the title. What I mean is, spend your time and energy writing a good script and not: making a good theme song, making a cool credit sequence or hiring former TV stars and wasting time and energy impressing people with how much money you can spend. The script is the most important thing, and don’t let any limpdick production assistant tell you differently. The best shows on TV have simple titles and don’t try to consciously ape what’s already out there. What am I talking about? Homicide: Life on the Street. The X-Files. Talk Soup. 60 Minutes. King of the Hill. I can tell you right now that most vanity projects that use the star’s name as the show’s name almost always blow. Cosby. Ellen. Cybill. Sure, there are exceptions, but let’s all take our cue from Fred MacMurray, the greatest dad ever to appear on TV. He was a well-known actor (Double Indemnity, The Apartment) when he was offered a chance to star in The Fred MacMurray Show. He said, “No way. I don’t want to carry the show. I don’t want people to say ‘Fred MacMurray’ was canceled when it’s over. I’ll do it, but I won’t have my name on it.” So they called it My Three Sons and it was a huge, long-running hit. Ellen’s show was originally called These Friends of Mine, which is actually okay, if the premise is a woman who has wacky friends. But when it turned into a political soapbox, lecturing people on tolerance, the network decided that Ellen was too political, and labeled both Ellen the show and Ellen the person as failures. Sucker. Should’ve kept the first name.
Finally, I would like to say that I am glad the world is becoming a smaller place and we’re all getting to understand each other a little better. I think immigration is really good for this country, and if it weren’t for the generosity of the American people, the world would be a darker, uglier, meaner place. I might even be king of that dark place, but I digress. I think that people should respect what other countries call their own cities, counties and towns. You know, let me just cut the bullshit and say what I want. Attention, Hispanics: the name of this place is NEW YORK CITY, not NUEVA YORK. Do you know how pissed off you would be if the rest of us just decided to translate San Juan, Puerto Rico into its English equivalent, St. John? How about if I refuse to acknowledge the concessions made to Spanish-speaking Americans and call Los Angeles “the Angels”? Or if I say San Francisco should be called St. Francis, or worse, just Frisco? Show some goddamn respect and call it what we call it. I’m not saying we should call Germany “Deutschland,” I am saying, hey, fuckers, this is New York City, and that’s what you should call it.
Lastly, I have to say that even though I think that musically, Fugazi are boring, the fact that they would do something cool like naming themselves a popular slang term used in the Vietnam war for “fucked up situation” makes them pretty cool in my book. If you still have any questions or are looking for suggestions on what to name something, anything, feel free to write a letter or e-mail me at email@example.com. I can name anything. Really.