Spellczechs (and others)

The stories behind hard-to-spell athlete names

And now for something somewhat different . . .

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SABR member Bruce Brown forwards this MiLB “Moniker Madness” bracket, where you can vote for the “best” names in Minor League Baseball this season.

(My money is on Sequoyah Stonecipher)

Written by dianagram

July 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Contests

Tagged with ,

Doug Wayne Gwosdz

with 4 comments

Image (c) Baseball-Almanac.com Tale of the tape:

English Pronunciation : Doug Wayne Goosh

First/middle/last names subject to misspelling: Last

Spellczechs degree of difficulty (1 – 5 diamonds, 5 being hardest)♦♦♦♦♦

Valid in Scrabble (name(s) also valid Scrabble words in and of themsel(ves)?: None

Playable in Scrabble (name(s) able to be formed with standard 100-tile English set)?: All

Best Anagram Genius anagram: (None of any quality)

Method for remembering spelling: Acronym phrase

The story:

Doug Wayne Gwosdz was a career backup catcher for the San Diego Padres, batting a putrid .144/.244/.202 (for those of you not familiar with “slash stats”, this refers to batting average / on-base percentage / slugging percentage) from 1981 through 1984.  He possesses an unremarkable first name (I can find no record of his first name being anything other than Doug.  You didn’t even think to name him “Douglas”, Mrs. Gwosdz?).  He also has a non-descript middle name.   These however are overcompensated by his “consonant jambalaya” of a last name.

Gwosdz appears to be a variant of the “rare to begin with” surname of Gwozdz, and gwozdz would seem to be the Polish word for “nail” (which seems to be a good sign if you aspire to be a major league catcher).

Approximately 17,000 different players have suited up for a Major League Baseball game.  Of those 17,000, about 4,300 of these players had last names of exactly six letters.  Of those 4,300, a mere 330 or so had but ONE vowel in their name.¹ So what Doug lacked in on-field performance, he made up for in alphabetic rarity.

Upon hearing “Goosh”, I can only wish that Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh could have been the real-life batterymate of Gwosdz.   It would have rivaled “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain”.  We could have had “LaLoosh and Gwosdz . . . and the batters go whoosh!”

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Written by dianagram

July 19, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Baseball

Tagged with

Lodewicus Theodorus “Louis” Oosthuizen

with 2 comments

Tale of the tape:

English Pronunciation : LOU-dew-ic-ious THE-od-OR-ous WEST-hye-zen

First/middle/last names subject to misspelling: All

Spellczechs degree of difficulty(1 – 5 diamonds, 5 being hardest)♦♦♦♦

Valid in Scrabble (name(s) also valid Scrabble words in and of themsel(ves)?: None

Playable in Scrabble (name(s) able to be formed with standard 100-tile English set)?: All 3

Best Anagram Genius anagram: Cold, duteous Zionist whorehouse

The story:

Louis Oosthuizen just won the 2010 British Open on Sunday.  This was the first Major championship for the 27-year-old native of South Africa.

Mr. Oosthuizen’s full birth name is a triple threat of tongue-twisting.  Let’s try tackling his first name . . . umm . . . first.   Here is the most important bit of advice I can give you in remembering how to spell certain words/names . . . try and break the word up into smaller, recognizable subwords, prefixes, suffixes, abbreviations and/or acronyms.  So, let’s see if we can tear apart “Lodewicus”.

Lodewicus is problematic because it doesn’t look like it would end with a “cious” sound.  (LOU-dew-ic-ious) But let’s try and break it down just the same. It the contains the subword “lode“, but “wicus” doesn’t really subdivide well.  However, what if we divided it into Lo/dew/ICUs. Then we’d have three subwords/acronyms we know and can easily relate to/remember.  From there, you many want to try and put the words into some kind of sentence such as “The lo dew of the ICUs“.  This is an example of a mnemonic device.  Simliarly, we can apply the same principle to his middle name (Theodorus), with The/odor/us, as in “The Odor of us“.

Now his last name, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.  And speaking of fish, oost happens to be, amongst other things,  the Dutch word for odor, while Huizen is Dutch for houses.   So is Louis affiliated with the a fish house, or is he a fan of heretofore unrecorded Weird Al interpretation of The Animals hit (namely, “House of the Rising Smell”)?  Sorry, I digress.

Depending on who you ask, his last name could be pronounced WOOST-hay-zen, or OAST-hay-zen, which would at least give you a fighting chance of spelling it correctly.

Its a bit messy, but you CAN break “Oosthuizen” up into smaller subwords prefixes and abbreviations:

Oo: is a prefix referring to egg or ovum

St: is an abbreviation for street

Hui: is a Chinese word meaning conference or secret society

Zen: is a type of Buddhism

In future posts, I’ll provide links to foreign name pronunciation guides, along with other tips/hints on spelling those hard-to-spell athlete names.  In the meantime, congrats to Mr. Fishhouse Mr. Oosthuizen.

Written by dianagram

July 18, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Golf

Tagged with , ,

In the beginning, there was . . . Tim Biakabutuka?

with 3 comments

I’ve always been a bit of an eclectic, nerdy geek.  My idea of fun in grammar school was to add numbers in my head faster than the teacher could do it on the chalkboard. My mother taught me to play Scrabble at an early age, and some 35 years later, I spend most of my vacation time playing in Scrabble tournaments around the country and studying word lists (no definitions please).  I’m the type of person who never met a pun she didn’t like, and takes pride in being able to recite the powers of 2 beyond any customary need (2 to the 22nd is 4,194,304 for those of you curious).

Sports has always been a big part of my life.  My dad was a Yankee fan, and so I became one, even if we DID live a mere 10-minute train ride from Shea.  I’ve blogged about sports, played softball and basketball, participated in fantasy leagues, and spent entirely too much time watching Joe Morgan opine on baseball.

I have a good friend named Jeremy. We met through Scrabble, and found that we had a mutual love of baseball.  We came up with our own variation of Scrabble, in which the last names of baseball players would be acceptable, and if challenged by your opponent, you would have to state the player’s first name, with Baseball-Reference.com the final judge.  CALZONE doesn’t fit on the board?  Well then, how about one-time Brewers slugger Sixto LEZCANO?

A few weeks ago, Jeremy showed me a newspaper ad for an all-sports spelling bee to be held on June 3rd at the ESPN Zone in Manhattan.  Now, I enjoy watching the kids apply their supple, still spongy brains towards the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But, the last spelling bee I took part in came back at P.S.152 in Queens, and nowadays my synapses aren’t firing quite as frequently.

Still, the thought of a sports-centric bee was intriguing.  No need to remember the proper spelling of laodicean, a word I’ve never had a need to use, nor seen in anything I’ve read.  I could limit it to “words” like “Yastrzemski” and “Krzyzewski”, people/words I’m still reading/using today.  There probably couldn’t be that many sport-related spelling savants . . . I couldn’t conceive that I’d be competing against a bunch of word nerds still living in their parent’s basement not able to go out and play until they nail the correct spelling of the entire South African team World Cup roster.

So, when Jeremy suggested we apply for this contest, I said “sure … why not!”  I didn’t know if we were going to be selected, since they were limiting the competition to about 50 spellers and I was sure the New York metro area could muster up 50 brave souls to do just about anything.  I also didn’t know when we would hear from them if we were selected.  So, I kind of put the Bee out of my mind.

Flash forward to Tuesday, June 1st. I receive the following e-mail:

Dear Contestant,

Congratulations!   You’ve been selected to participate in ESPN Zone’s 3rd Annual Sports Spelling Bee.  The Spelling Bee will take place at ESPN Zone in Times Square on Thursday, June 3rd at 7:00pm.  ESPN Zone is located at 1472 Broadway on the corner of 42nd Street.  Contestants must check in at the registration table on the Mezzanine Level between 6:00pm and 6:30pm.  Contestants who arrive after 6:30pm may be disqualified.  You will need a valid picture ID as you must be 18 years of age or older to participate.

You will be asked to spell the names of sports figures (coaches, players, broadcasters, etc), alive or deceased. We may ask you to spell either the first name OR last name so you should be prepared for either.

You are encouraged to bring along your own cheering section.  Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis.  Please note, there will be food and beverage minimums of $10 per person per hour to be seated at a table in the Screening Room (2nd floor), where the event will take place.  Standing room may also be available at the Screening Room Bar for spectators.

Please send an email to Susan.Abramson@disney.com confirming you received this email and still plan to participate in ESPN Zone’s Sports Spelling Bee.

Thank you and G-O-O-D L-U-C-K!

ESPN Zone New York

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Written by dianagram

July 15, 2010 at 3:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized