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.