Given my interest in names and New York sports, when J.J. Putz was traded to the Mets, everyone just assumed I would pounce on it. And, yet, somehow, I was never really interested. It was almost too easy. It doesn’t require a whole lot of wit or cleverness to poke fun at a name like Putz. A name that, in and of itself, is the insult. It doesn’t require any imagination, any sophistication, to be like, “Putz is a putz.” (You know, the way it requires imagination and sophistication to make fun of people with names that sounds vaguely like poop or a cereal.)
Maybe, if the name was not actually putz but sort of like putz, I’d feel differently. However, as it stands, J.J.’s name simply didn’t seem challenging enough to be worth my while.
That is, until I found out how he pronounced it.
As in, it puts the lotion in the basket. Or, it puts me in a better position to make fun of you when you pronounce the name Putz like puts.
According to Putz, he doesn’t opt to mispronounce his name because he thinks it will deter people from making a joke out of it. (And good thing because it wouldn’t.) He mispronounces his name because that’s the way they pronounce it in Hungary. Supposedly.
Well, there are definitely people in Hungary who have the name Putz—I discovered this through the use of facebook, a reference tool second only to Urban Dictionary in credibility. However, when I really went to test the mettle of his assertion with the assistance of a website called ancestry.com, my search yielded somewhat different results.
According to this site, the name Putz has its roots in Austria and Germany. Its meanings are sundry and perplexing. Putz is, for starters, the “topographic name for someone who lived by a well.” A little confusing because, back then—whenever then was—didn’t everyone live by a well? Like, as a matter of survival?
In addition to being a “topographic” name, Putz is apparently also a “habitational name for a place so named in Luxembourg.” Presumably a place in Luxembourg where they speak German rather than French or Luxembourgish. No, really. Luxembourgish is a language.
But wait. There’s more. Putz is also “from a pet form of the personal name Burghard.” Which makes sense because if you take Bur off of the beginning, replace the “g” with a “p” and the “hard” with “utz,” it’s basically the same word. Oh, and in case you were curious, Burghard means strong as a castle. But you knew that.
Last, but definitely not least, Putz is apparently a “nickname from a byname for the devil.” At this point we’re supposed to “see also Butz.”
While this is all fascinating, I’m sure you’re all asking yourselves the same question: What’s Hungary got to do with it? The best that I could come up with was that the name must have originated in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (I mean, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who was living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire who wasn’t a Habsburg was probably a putz.) And then when things got all broken up into different smaller countries, who could keep track? History and geography can be confusing. That’s why I just refer to all Asian countries as the Orient. The war in Iraq? I like to call that “Operation Babylonian Freedom.”
Still, I wasn’t totally satisfied with this line of reasoning, so I went to the multilingual dictionary to find a more tangible link between Hungary and the surname Putz. I discovered that if you translate the German word putz into Hungarian, it is apparently díszes kellékek. So, actually, if Putz wants to say his name the Hungarian way, he should simply refer to himself as J.J. Diszes Kellékek.
(For the record, according to this same dictionary, the English for putz is "trappings." As in, “anyone who pronounces a German name the Hungarian way has all the trapping of a putz.” And by the way, I can now refer to him as a putz and consider myself to be clever because the pronunciation is puts—like putz but not quite. See how that works? By putting the puts into Putz, you inadvertently put the putz into Putz.)
Anyone who has read anything I have had to say about Brett Fav-ruh (or Jhonny Peralta for that matter) knows how crazy it makes me when the spelling and pronunciation of a name are mismatched. In Putz’s case, however, I am especially affronted because I feel like the mispronunciation is a deliberate attempt to try to trick us into not realizing that his name is putz. The irony is that, in so doing, he draws more attention to his name than he would if he just let us say it like its spelled. It’s true that some infantile people out there might focus on his name as an opportunity for an insult. However, for the most part, Mets fans are so grateful to have a decent setup man that, assuming Putz doesn’t blow it, no one would dream of insulting him. In fact, I think that if he stops pronouncing his name the wrong way, eventually, no one will give it a second thought.
The way that I no longer think about toilets when someone says “Flushing.”