What do you call the study of the origins of band names? Behold a new academic discipline!

By on October 25, 2015
The Talking Heads song that inspired Radiohead’s name.

Some time ago during the research and writing of my long-running alt-rock radio documentary, The Ongoing History of New Music, I decided to revisit one of the more popular topics: How did [band X] get their name? But as I was starting to write the script, I suddenly had a thought. What, exactly, do you call this sort of research pursuit? Is there a word for the study of the origins of band names? I had to find out.

First stop was etymology, which is the well-trod investigative path of the origins of everyday words. Kitten, for example, has been traced to the Middle English word kitounI, which is a mashup of kiteling and/or kitling (the young of any animal, but especially a cat) and chitoun, a variant of chaton, a French word for a young cat. Kitten first emerged in Western Europe and what is now the UK sometime after 1350.

U-2_Spy_Plane_With_Fictitious_NASA_Markings_-_GPN-2000-000112The infamous Lockheed U-2 spy plane.

Next on the list was onomastics, the study of the origins of names, something that will be very familiar to anyone who has ever bought one of those what-do-I-name-my-baby books. I learned that my name, Alan, is even older than kitten. It was first used in Brittany as far back as the 6th century and either meant “little rock” (not bad) or “handsome” (debatable). Or the name may have come from the Alans, a tribe from Iran that migrated to Europe in a migrant crisis of the 4th and 5th centuries.

Finally, I ran across the term toponymy, which focuses on the study of place names, a word which was coined sometime in the 1870s and has been in use by geographers ever since.

However, nowhere did I find any reference to any term that involved determining why, say, the Talking Heads are called the Talking Heads or why “The Beatles” is spelled the way it is. It was time to invent a new word for the English language.

depechemodecoverCover of French fashion magazine Depeche Mode.

The first person I consulted was Dr. Sheila Embleton, a professor of linguistics at York University in Toronto. She is a hardcore onomastician, an academician who studies word originals and a member of The American Name Society, which counts many scholars and creative types amongst its members. She listened very carefully to my argument and agreed that I’d identified a gap in the English language. She offered to help.

Dr. Embleton then contacted some of her ANS colleagues, including Professor Richard Coats of the University of West England, Priscilla Order, the first VP of the American Name Society and Marc Hershon, part of a branding agency in Sausalito, California, which has come up with product names ranging from “Blackberry” to “Swiffer.”

These people took up the task of creating a word for me, a brand new etymologically correct and academically acceptable term that denotes the study of the origin of band names.

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 5.18.43 PMNeed a band name? Generate one today.

After about a week of discussion, I received an email.  “After careful consideration of your problem,” wrote Dr. Embleton, “we think the best construct for this new word is ‘bandomynology.’ Bando for, well, “musical band or group,” -myn, Afrikaans for ‘mine’ and -ology for ‘the scientific study of a particular subject.’ Basically it means ‘my study of band names.'”

That’s good enough for me: bandomynology.

So please, friends, let’s do all we can to get this new word into the Oxford English Dictionary. Use it wherever it’s appropriate in your academic research and your everyday music nerdiness. Encourage its spread and use in all areas of human endeavor.

I mean, c’mon. How often do you get a chance to change the English language?

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