If you start a band, one of the first orders of business is to come up with a name. The next order of business: explaining to everyone how you came up with the name.

If you start a band, one of the first orders of business is to come up with a name. The next order of business: explaining to everyone how you came up with the name.


It’s often the first question a music writer will ask during an interview.


It’s actually a two-pronged question. People want to know why band members chose the particular identity. But if the name seems cryptic, it adds another layer of mystique that demands attention.


If your band is called Glorious Dorothy and the Furious Fireplace Fixers, then it’s going to pique curiosity, assuming none of the band members is named Dorothy, works as chimney sweeps or is prone to rage.


Pop music wasn’t always this way. At one time, people took a mostly straightforward approach to group-naming.


That would seem alien to present-day music writers. If one of them went back in time to interview Tommy Dorsey, it would go like this:


Interviewer:?Let’s talk about your band name, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. How’d you come up with that?


Tommy Dorsey:?Let me see. First, we took the name Tommy?Dorsey, because that’s my name, Tommy Dorsey. As for the other musicians who comprise the orchestra, we chose the name “orchestra” to represent that.


Interviewer:?Wow. You just blew my mind.


I won’t get into how we made the transition from simple to complex.


The Internet has changed interview protocol, nearly eliminating the need to focus on a band’s name. Writers can do a Q&A, then just check  group’s website, where the origin of the band’s name probably isn’t included.


If a band gets famous enough, they won’t have to explain anything. They’d be included in the Wikipedia entry titled "band name etymology."


I found that just a few weeks ago, and it’s an interesting list. For example, members of a-ha chose the name “because it means the same thing in several languages.” It doesn’t explain what it means in all those languages, but you can’t have everything.


That’s just the first entry. Before I read any further, I decided to look up “etymology”?to see where the word originated.


I found a website called Online Etymology Dictionary, so named for its dictionary-style listing of various etymologies, online.


The word “etymology” was first used in 14th-century Greek, “etymologia, from etymon 'true sense,'” which I think means “etymology” in Greek, which means the same thing in several languages.


“Ah-ha,”?I thought.


I still say, simplicity is best. If you’re thinking of starting a band, I suggest naming it Etymology.


Contact Dennis Volkert at volkert@sturgisjournal.com.