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A gag name is a false name used to elicit humour through its simultaneous resemblance to a real name and to a term or phrase that is funny, strange or vulgar. The source of humour is the double meaning behind the phrase although the comedic effect is amplified when an unknowing victim is induced to use the name without realising the joke. Urban legend holds that such a prank is often played on substitute teachers or others who must read a roll, for whom pranksters will switch the roll with one containing such names.
Examples in reality
Occasionally, real persons with a name that could also be interpreted as a funny or vulgar phrase are the subject of mockery or parody because of their name. For example, Hu Jintao, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, whose surname is pronounced like "who", and former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, whose surname is pronounced like "when", have occasionally been the topic of verbal humor similar to the "Who's on First?" sketch. Former US Congressman from New Hampshire Dick Swett's name, when pronounced, sounds like common slang for genital perspiration. Other names in politics which could be regarded as gag names include John Boehner, Harry Baals, Dick Armey and Tiny Kox (although Boehner's surname is properly pronounced "bay-ner", it is often misunderstood as "boner"). There are also various people named Richard "Dick" Head.
Modern roller derby players frequently use gag names, both in their team names as well as the names they use for themselves. Often these are double entendres or suggestive. For example, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls includes players named Ho J. Simpson, May Q. Pay ("make you pay"), and Amanda Jamitinya ("a man to jam it in you").
On April 13, 2003, James Scott of the Charleston, South Carolina, paper The Post and Courier reported that "Heywood Jablome" (a pun for "Hey, would you blow me?", "blow" being slang for fellatio) was escorted from the premises while counterprotesting Martha Burk's protest at the Masters Tournament. He subsequently admitted to his being "duped" by the protester, who was in reality a morning disc jockey for a regional FM radio station.
In 2014, Prior Lake High School students received a letter purportedly from the school district describing an upcoming "mandatory vagina inspection" for female students. The letter was signed "Barry McCockiner, Director, Department of Vaginal Corrections". The prank attracted worldwide attention and spawned copycat incidents at other schools around the country.
In 2007, a BBC radio presenter was reprimanded after tricking a fellow disc jockey into reading out a fake request for a listener named Connie Lingus (cunnilingus) from Ivan R. Don (I've an hardon).
In July 2013, KTVU in San Francisco aired fake names of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 pilots "Sum Ting Wong" ("something wrong"), "Wi Tu Lo" ("we too low"), "Ho Lee Fuk" ("holy fuck") and "Bang Ding Ow" (sounds possibly involved with a crash) provided by an NTSB intern who had mistaken this report from a member of the public for the real thing, during its noon newscast. The station later apologized for the error.
In January 2017, UK sports broadcaster Sky Sports inadvertently reported that Aberdeen had signed a Turkish footballer called Yerdas Selzavon (phonetically "your da (father) sells Avon", a reference to the direct-selling cosmetics company) after falling for a gag name on a fake Twitter account.
On 13 February 2017, a taxi driver being filmed protesting against changes to taxi licensing in Melbourne, Australia was named as "Tsim Booky" on the Channel 9 Today Show, with his quote picked up by the Daily Mail. τσιμπούκι refers to fellatio in Modern Greek.
In 2016, Seattle resident Rudy Pantoja Jr. became known on the internet as "Hugh Mungus" (humongous) after an incident involving a woman named Zarna Joshi, who accosted him with a camera and publicly harassed him by yelling and accusing him of sexual harassment after he said this gag name.
Examples in fiction
The series of James Bond books and films often use double entendres for the names of Bond girls, such as Honey Rider from Dr. No, Bibi Dahl from For Your Eyes Only, Holly Goodhead from Moonraker, Xenia Onatopp from GoldenEye, Chu Mei (chew me) from The Man with the Golden Gun, Plenty O'Toole from Diamonds Are Forever and, most famously, Pussy Galore from Goldfinger. This is parodied in the Austin Powers series of spoofs on the spy genre; Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery features a villain named Alotta Fagina, who must repeat her name several times because Austin misunderstands it.
In Monty Python's Life of Brian, there is an extensive use of Dog Latin as a tool for creating gag names. The protagonist's biological father is believed to be called Naughtius Maximus, while a friend of Pontius Pilate is named Biggus Dickus and his wife's name is Incontinentia Buttocks. One of Pilate's guards also mentions Sillius Soddus.
The widely known gag name "Mike Hunt", a homonym for "my cunt", appears in the 1982 teen comedy film, Porky's, where a waitress receives a phone call and asks, "Is Mike Hunt here? Has anyone seen Mike Hunt?" ("Everybody in town!" replies a customer familiar with the gag).
In the American animated sitcom The Simpsons, Bart Simpson frequently calls Moe's Tavern asking for nonexistent patrons with gag names, prompting bartender Moe Szyslak to call out for the person. These gag names include, Mike Rotch "my crotch", Seymour Butz "see more butts", Oliver Klozoff "all of her clothes off", Amanda Hugginkiss "a man to hug and kiss", Ollie Tabooger "I'll eat a booger", and Homer Sexual "homosexual". This running joke is based upon the real life Tube Bar prank calls. However, in the episode "Flaming Moe's", this gag backfired against Bart when he called for a person named Hugh Jass ("huge ass") when it was revealed that there actually was a patron at Moe's Tavern named Hugh Jass.
In the MTV series Beavis and Butthead, the episode "Prank Call" features a random thug by the name Harry Sachz (Hairy Sacks) whom the duo mercilessly harass via phone call until he snaps and hunts them down, inadventently invading their neighbor Stuart's house instead. In the episode "Customers Suck", Butthead announces the name Seymour Butz (without a given context).
In the HBO series The Sopranos, Ralph Cifaretto makes a prank call to Paulie Gualtieri's mother, claiming to be "Detective Mike Hunt" with the Beaver Falls, PA Police Department.
On the CBS series How I Met Your Mother, Ted (a university professor) laughed at a student's name, Cook Pu ("Cook Poo"), assuming it was a joke name. The offended student dropped his class.
On the Tiny Toon Adventures pledge drive episode, Elmyra gets prank calls asking for Bill Loney (baloney), Pepe Roni (pepperoni) and Ima Yutz (I'm a yutz).
The British satirist and writer Chris Morris makes use of silly names in the television programmes Brass Eye, The Day Today and his radio series On The Hour, such as David Qunt and Wayne Carr (a homophone for "wanker").
Robert De Niro has appeared in various episodes of Saturday Night Live as a homeland security officer advising the public to be on the lookout for suspects such as Jenna Tailia "genitalia", M'Balz es-Hari "my balls is hairy" and Graabir Boubi "grab her booby".
The mass media have featured gag names that sound like vulgar sexual terms for vaginas ("Mike Hunt"), penises ("Dick Head", "Dikshit"), testicles ("Harry Balls"), and sexual intercourse (with homonyms for "fucking").
Gag names can also be applied to businesses, such as Howard Stern's use of the fictitious "Sofa King": in a hoax advertisement, the store was described as being "Sofa King great" (i.e. "so fucking great"). A January 18, 2000, FCC complaint for using the phrase was dismissed. A similar sketch was performed on Saturday Night Live in early 2007, portraying Sofa King as a new store opening after the success of Mattress King. An old joke (1950s) said that the Fuller Brush Company had merged with the Schick company to become the "Fuller Schick" company.
Examples in other languages
The 2005 South Korean television series Hello My Teacher was criticised for its inclusion of a character with the gag name Nam Sung-ki. Sung-ki is a common masculine name, but "Nam Sung-ki" is homophonous with the Korean language word for "penis".
Ghil'ad Zuckermann suggests that at the end of the twentieth century there was a wave of jocular Israeli gag names, most of them based on rebracketing. He provides the following gag names, all based on common names but whose combination results in a jocular, sometimes politically incorrect, meaning:
- Simkha Rif, a falafel salesperson, based on the rebracketing of sim kharíf, literally "put hot!" ((masculine, singular), i.e. "add some pepper!", a sentence often heard in Israeli falafel shops.
- Asaf Lots, a stinky person, based on the rebracketing of asá flots, meaning "[he] farted (masculine, singular)", "[he] made a fart".
- Boaz Orly, a miserable person, based on the rebracketing of bo azór li, meaning "come, help me!".
- ‘Alila Maslul, an Arab female model, based on the rebracketing of alí lamaslúl, meaning "go up the catwalk!" (masculine, singular).
- Micky Pelli, a paratrooper whose parachute did not open, based on the rebracketing of mi kipél li, meaning "Who folded [it] for me?".
- Mira Tsakh, a female detective, based on the rebracketing of mi ratsákh, meaning "Who murdered?", "Who committed the murder?".
- Maya Feba, an ugly woman, based on the rebracketing of ma yafé ba, meaning "What is beautiful about her?".
- Rut Tavor, a female army operator, based on the rebracketing of rut avór, meaning "Roger, Over".
- Becky Tsur, a female stenographer, based on the rebracketing of bekitsúr, meaning "briefly, in a short manner".
- Avi Ron, pilot, based on the rebracketing of avirón, meaning "airplane".
- Beri Tsakala, an Ethiopian runner, based on the rebracketing of beritsá kalá, meaning "running lightly".
- Eli Kopter, a helicopter pilot, based on the rebracketing of helikópter, "helicopter".
- Amit Romem, a gay man, based on the rebracketing of hamitromém, literally "raising himself", referring to "homosexual man".
- Basam Shaka, an Arab drug-addict, based on basám shaká, meaning "soaked in the drug" (masculine, singular).
- Avihu Medina (the name of a famous Israeli singer, songwriter and composer), "Louis the Fifteenth", based on the rebracketing of avi hu mediná, meaning "My father is a state" (see Louis XIV of France’s L'état c'est moi, meaning "I am the state").
- "Harry Pitts? The worst baby names of all time".
- Barkham, Patrick (26 February 2001). "Aussie icons under siege". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
- "May Q Pay - Rocky Mountain Rollergirls". Rocky Mountain Rollergirls. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
- "Skaters & Staff: The Contenders". Rocky Mountain Rollergirls. Archived from the original on 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
- "Protesters overshadowed by media, police". web.archive.org; charleston.net. Archived from the original on 2003-06-03. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- "Embarrassing lesson: Duped reporter learns the hard way". charleston.net. Archived from the original on 2003-06-02. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
- "Heywood Jablome". snopes.com. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
- Rupar, Aaron. ""Mandatory Vagina Inspection" letter was a prank, Prior Lake School District says - City Pages". City Pages.
- "The Grossest Senior Prank Ever Involves 'Mandatory Vagina Inspections'". uproxx.com. 19 May 2014.
- "Mothers Day Dedication Fail". Radiofail.
- "DJ boob on the Beeb". The Sun. 2007-07-28. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "News You Can Lose: KTVU Makes Racist Plane Crash Gaffe". Snopes. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- "NTSB statement on erroneous confirmation of crew names". NTSB. 12 July 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- Online, Record Sport (2017-01-07). "Sky Sports fall for Aberdeen 'Yer Da Sells Avon' prank". dailyrecord. Retrieved 2017-01-09.
- "Peak-hour traffic chaos as taxi drivers block Melbourne's Bolte Bridge". dailymail.co.uk.
- "Hugh Mungus Accuser Zarna Joshi Kicked Out of Seattle City Hall After…". heatst.com. 3 November 2016. Archived from the original on 3 November 2016.
- "Dikshit giggles: New Henry drama". Stuff. 6 October 2010. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
- "Kiwi TV host now shown ridiculing Sheila Dikshit". Indian Express. 6 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
- Vass, Beck (15 January 2011). "Henry foes, fans evenly split". The New Zealand Herald.
- India condemns 'racist' remarks by New Zealand TV host, BBC News, 7 October 2010.
- "극중 교사 이름이 '남성기 조지아'?". Economy Today. 2005-04-11. Retrieved 2013-12-20.
- See p. 146 in Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan.