Right now, the Web is abuzz about the arrest of rapper ”T.I.” What do the “T” & “I” stand for? (The answer is odd)

Lots of celebrities use odd names. Snooki? Lady Gaga? (Find out if the word Snooki actually means anything, here.) The arrest of popular hip-hop star T.I. turns the spotlight on his unique name, which we consider far more fascinating than 99% of the funny things pop stars choose to call themselves.

Why do we find the moniker “T.I.” so provocative? It’s presumably an abbreviation, but for what? We’re not sure that it matters, and that’s the key. It doesn’t stand for his given name, Clifford Harris Jr. The initials create mystique, an implication that you need to be in the know to understand. In this case, there may not be anything to really understand. A number of obscene, drug and sex-based possibilities float around the Web, but Wikipedia claims that “He was nicknamed “Tip” after his paternal great-grandfather.” If that’s the case, how does one explain the periods? Complicating matters further, Harris shortened the nickname to T.I. after his record label expressed concern that he might be confused with label mate Q-Tip.

The lexical labyrinth of T.I’s name could be called a pseudo-acronym, “an apparent acronym or other abbreviation which doesn’t stand for anything, or cannot be officially expanded to some meaning.” We’re tempted to simply call it a strange practical joke, or a peculiar take on the nonce-word, “a word coined and used only for a particular occasion.”

Tell us your favorite example of a weird word, or the strangest way that English works.


  1. anonymous -  December 16, 2010 - 9:34 am

    okay his nickname was tip but he shortened it up after his cd (which is true) but its not an acronym he just named himself that.. big freaking deal!


  2. BUTTER -  November 5, 2010 - 6:30 am



  3. hex0d -  September 8, 2010 - 5:26 pm

    T.I. stands for Terrible Inglish. Or at least it should, dawg.

  4. spameroo -  September 4, 2010 - 1:25 am

    Everyone has a right to be ignorant of contemporary popular culture, just as everyone has a right to dislike some aspects of it. However, I’d argue that anyone who claims to be an intellectual (which I assume to be true of most readers of a vocabulary blog) does NOT have a right to denigrate something they admit to knowing nothing about. Honestly, most of you just sound like bitter curmudgeons, to the point where it’s almost comical…

    As a 23-year-old, PhD student, and vocabulary-lover, I do actually know who TI is (and have for at least 5 years… just to put in perspective how far out-of-touch several of you are). Until about 3 years ago, I pretty categorically avoided rap, along with r&b, country, pop, and most anything that wasn’t some type of rock. TI actually did a concert at my school sophomore year, which I never even considered attending**. Around a year later, after actually HEARING many examples* of good rap through my roommate, I realized I had been totally wrong about the genre.

    As it turns out, once I was able to force myself out of the “ITS NOT REAL MUSIC LOL” mindset, I discovered that a lot of rappers are master wordsmiths. The art of the genre isn’t in the music, it’s in the lyrics. The best rappers display an incredible vocabulary, made even more impressive by their ability to make up long, unbroken, metered, rhyming verse on the spot (called “flow,” for all you curmudgeons out there). I enjoy listening to rap now, and several tracks (including some TI!) have even found their way into my 5-star playlist. The point of my rambling post is, I like rap BECAUSE of my love for vocabulary and the English language – not IN SPITE of it.

    *Good examples: Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Common, TI, Notorious B.I.G

    **For the record, I’m definitely NOT trying to defend TI as a person here. He actually douched over the school at said concert; they paid him for a 60 minute set, and he split after 40 minutes so he could go to PF Chang’s….

  5. Ozzie -  September 4, 2010 - 12:02 am

    What a ‘todo’ about nothing really. I mean who gives a rat’s what T.I. stands for. We have had similarly interesting names before like ‘Iced Tea’

  6. Ridley Porter -  September 3, 2010 - 11:00 am

    T.I stands for ‘Terminally Ill,’ or ‘Transexual Icon.’

  7. Alex -  September 3, 2010 - 10:41 am

    T.I. is one of the most prominent names in rap. He’s hit more #1 singles in 5 years than most artists will put out in a lifetime.

    Your making statements like, “T.I. who?” because you haven’t heard of him. It doesn’t mean he isn’t successful – he is.

  8. #1 Skillet fan -  September 3, 2010 - 10:07 am

    T.I should stand for totally irresponsible :) lol and before I read this column if someone would have asked me about his arrest I would have been like, “Who da heck is T.I?????”. Idk mabe its cause I’m just a panhead and i hate rap, pop, and Hip-Hop no offence.

  9. Waldo Pepper -  September 3, 2010 - 10:04 am

    Blah blah blah….this time next year his 15 minutes will be up and he will have to pursue a real job.

  10. Nathan -  September 3, 2010 - 10:01 am

    TI is MIA but he’ll BRB because young people don’t know they’re being taken advantage of by record labels and any other company that capitalizes on youth culture.

  11. mm -  September 3, 2010 - 9:23 am

    Who’s give a damn.??

  12. kravfish -  September 3, 2010 - 8:51 am

    The fact that most of you on here are commenting about the man T.I. means the record companies are doing their job correctly in getting people to bother talking about him in the first place. It doesn’t matter what the reason for his T.I., if it invokes you to write comments about him, it could provoke you to listen to his music one day, which could lead to buying one of his songs on itunes or even a whole CD. And for those of you hating on him, at least he has the heart to chase after and pursue his dream of being a rap artist. Even if you don’t like or respect rap, you should respect the fact that someone is working towards their goal in life. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE to follow your own inner dream. Certainly hanging out on these websites making judgements about other people you don’t even know isn’t helping you to persue what it is that might be in your heart to go try to do. You all only have one life. Go pursue your own dreams and see what happens, it might not be easy, but at least T.I. went after the desire in his heart. Commenting and judging all day, thats easy…anyone can do that!

  13. shiznit -  September 3, 2010 - 8:39 am

    Miamac, teens enjoy these celebrities because they can relate to them, not all individuals are pathetic followers and idolize these people because of their actions, just because they’re doing what they do, doesn’t mean all kids try to copy them, some actually have a mind of their own. Not to mention, most teens do the things these celebrities like as well, and have also been through the things they talk about in their music. Duh.

  14. JRB -  September 3, 2010 - 8:24 am

    Next year? I’m saying who the heck is TI right now! Why not have a word curiosity about something more of us might be interested in? Or something more of us might even have heard before. Rap/Schmap! I’m sick of rude rappers like kanye wets, or 20cent-piece and whoever this TI is. By the way, doesn’t Texas Instruments have a trademark on ‘TI’?

  15. William -  September 3, 2010 - 8:23 am

    Doesn’t T.I. stand for ‘Total Idiot’?

  16. Saf -  September 3, 2010 - 8:09 am

    @ Rock Chick

    Concerned? I’m sure his record label is ecstatic. If people who don’t know or care about T.I. (i.e., us) are talking about him, then the publicity stunt was a success.

  17. tiqqah -  September 3, 2010 - 8:04 am

    t.i. has made a comeback and i believe that he is a better person than he was before. we all make mistakes and he has made his. get over it.

  18. Briyana -  September 3, 2010 - 7:47 am

    Q-Tip is so dumb! What is he? An advocate of earwax? :) lol

  19. kira -  September 3, 2010 - 7:43 am

    my boo T.I some ppls are haters
    yall know other wise you wouldnt be

  20. kerlie -  September 3, 2010 - 6:20 am

    Ti and Tiny

  21. Rock Chick -  September 3, 2010 - 5:03 am

    I do not know Mr. Clifford Harris, Jr. aka T.I….Too bad the record label can turn an innocent, sweet nickname from his great-grandfather into a “confusion!” I’m more interested in knowing the reason his great-granddaddy gave him the name Tip! I wonder if his record label is “concerned” that he’s been arrested? Good grief!

  22. ummmmm ya know -  September 3, 2010 - 4:49 am

    Ti who???????????HEHEHEHE

  23. jayesh jose -  September 3, 2010 - 3:10 am

    doesnt make sense…with what it means…

  24. hagalaz -  September 3, 2010 - 2:08 am

    “Why so rude? If he bothers you so much then why bother commenting?”

    I think a lot of people are annoyed at all those no talent hacks who just make it because they’re spammed like there’s no tomorrow by mainstream media.

  25. Jeff -  September 2, 2010 - 10:25 pm

    Terminally Incarcerated

  26. janice -  September 2, 2010 - 9:15 pm

    marijuana is decriminalized in Canada. He wouldn’t have any issue if it happened here…

  27. anon -  September 2, 2010 - 8:53 pm

    ten inch player

  28. Nonoaka23 -  September 2, 2010 - 8:14 pm

    Why so rude? If he bothers you so much then why bother commenting?

  29. Jeterdude2 -  September 2, 2010 - 8:04 pm

    look at the Periodic table and the symbol for Titanium is TI and EdgeOfDark is a hater

  30. Binh Vo -  September 2, 2010 - 7:20 pm

    Yea, if you watch some of his interviews, he actually explained his pseudonym, “T.I.”, as “an abbreviation derided for Tip (which is his nickname from childhood).”

  31. M@rCo$ -  September 2, 2010 - 6:48 pm

    Endoplasmic reticulum is my favorite wierd word

  32. Curly Hair -  September 2, 2010 - 6:18 pm

    Never heard of him, and glad of that. I hate hip-hop.

    It’s like Harry S. Truman. The S. didn’t stand for anything. He just put it there because he thought it was cool.

    When I hear “T.I.” I think Time In. Like when I was a little kid playing tag, and we’d yell T.O. and T.I.

    Although Texas Instruments is a good one, Silver Fang!

  33. JK -  September 2, 2010 - 6:02 pm

    the ingenuitable! :)

  34. 8waffles -  September 2, 2010 - 5:58 pm

    He is out on parole, possession of marijuana is illegal and can be cause for re-incarceration. How about T.I. standing for Total Idiot?

  35. miamac -  September 2, 2010 - 5:39 pm

    I doubt you’ll say “T.I. Who” next year. Just like a host of other celebrities, being or doing bad seems to be the cool thing to do. Paris Hilton gets arrested ‘again’ for an illegal drug substance, Lady GaGa condones in a print interview that she ‘still does’ cocaine, Snoop Dog is known for smoking ‘the kronic, aka weed, dope’ and now T.I. Yet they all still make millions in record sales, movies or just mere appearances because you, the public, condone it. Alisha Keys, Switz Beatz, Fantasia, Jesse James, Tiger Woods, David Letterman, Larry King, etc. etc. etc. had public affairs and yet they still remain ‘famous’ and still make googles of money off the public, the people who buy their products or patronize their businesses. Shame, shame, shame on us all. And these are who you make your kids’ role models? Parents should take a stand and be better role models themselves so their children don’t idolize these people and their negative behaviors so much.

  36. anonynous -  September 2, 2010 - 5:35 pm

    toilet infestation

  37. spexdoc -  September 2, 2010 - 5:28 pm

    Honestly, What a boob !

  38. john -  September 2, 2010 - 5:23 pm

    He he he he he he ………. mind your Ps and Qs….and hope that T.I.’s
    last name doesn’t start with a “T”

  39. batman -  September 2, 2010 - 5:01 pm

    It stands for Ten Inches

  40. SwaggDoctor -  September 2, 2010 - 4:54 pm

    i dont care wat nobody say.. t.i. is raw and willl always be raw….

  41. A. L. -  September 2, 2010 - 4:13 pm

    That’s right, we’ll be saying “T.I. Who,” just like last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

  42. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  September 2, 2010 - 3:54 pm

    “Remember to cross your T’s and dot your I’s….”

    Of course, that’s really ‘Cross your T’s and X’s and dot your I’s and J’s’.


  43. indianmoonpiehead -  September 2, 2010 - 3:53 pm

    He’s adorable! I call him Baby Boy.

  44. KaitlinlovesTwilight -  September 2, 2010 - 3:52 pm

    I think TI will be known for a long time!!

  45. Kaitlin -  September 2, 2010 - 3:51 pm

    Hehe… funny… Q-Tip

  46. sweet pea -  September 2, 2010 - 3:47 pm

    S for sweet, sadistic, small island, and sweet. P for piano, peanuts and piss. SP of PS, ILY.

  47. aggravating is his tactics -  September 2, 2010 - 3:36 pm

    A long hair snoopy yoga guru sprout–LHSYGS, try these consonants into something more sensible with vowls.

  48. Hydi -  September 2, 2010 - 3:30 pm

    “Weird” is a weird word.It breaks the “I before E, except after C” rule. Weird is weird.

  49. Waldo Pepper -  September 2, 2010 - 3:08 pm

    Yawn. Next year, we’re going to be saying “T.I. who?”

  50. Silver Fang -  September 2, 2010 - 3:07 pm

    Texas Instruments!


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