Ongoing History of New Music

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

Bastille, Pompeii

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:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37893 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 801: 60 Band Name Origins in 60 Minutes

  • Ned’s Atomic Dustbin — came from a Goon Show episode title, but they had the logo first (including the radioactive symbol) and it fit best from their ideas.

    Therapy? — not sure about the original name, but the question mark came from goofing on spacing when doing their first cover art with press-on letters. Used it to fill the gap.


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