Bluff The Listener

Nov 5, 2011
Originally published on November 5, 2011 10:47 am
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CARL KASELL, host: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Paula Poundstone, Peter Grosz and Kyrie O'Connor. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL: Thank you, Carl.


SAGAL: Thank you so much. Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

JOSH KLINE: Hi, this is Josh Kline from St. Augustine, Florida.

SAGAL: Hey Josh, how are things in St. Augustine?

KLINE: Oh, it's beautiful down here. Nice and 60 degrees.

SAGAL: Oh, that's great. What do you do there?

KLINE: I sell a medical device that's used in the operating room. It's a surgical laser scalpel.

SAGAL: Oh, how cool. Can you use it to have sword fights if you got bored?


KLINE: Maybe.



SAGAL: Well Josh, welcome to the show. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Josh's topic?

KASELL: I shall name my son Sue.

SAGAL: So parents are the worst. They strap you with a name like Apple and then they force you to do things embarrassing, like go to middle school.


SAGAL: All you can do is make the most of it. Well, our panelists are going to read you three stories of people who had a name they spent a lifetime regretting, finding out it could be a blessing. Guess the true story; you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail. Ready to play?

KLINE: Let's do it.

SAGAL: First, let's hear from Mr. Peter Grosz.

PETER GROSZ: The good people of Tipton, Indiana liked to have a laugh at the expense of Dr. Michael Baarf.


GROSZ: No matter how often he told people his name was of Dutch origin and spelled with two A's, they just couldn't stop giggling. What's worse; patients weren't all that excited to use an OB/GYN with his name. After all, when someone asks, "oh, who delivered your baby," it's kind of hard to say, "Oh, Dr. Baarf, he was wonderful."


GROSZ: And men don't need another reason to get queasy in the delivery room. The good doctor had accepted his fate until two weeks ago when he was driving home from the hospital and came upon a terrible accident. A school bus had flipped upside down in a ditch, trapping the children inside. Thinking fast, Dr. Baarf retrieved an ax from his trunk and smashed open several windows, allowing every single child to crawl out to safety.

Well, Tipton, Indiana laughs no longer. The mayor has decreed that the date of the incident, October 21st, will forever be known as Baarf Day.


GROSZ: And acts of heroism in town are being referred to by a new name. Says Police Chief Jordan Richardson, One of my officers got an old woman's cat out of her tree, and as he was leaving, she said, "thanks for Baarfing, officer."


SAGAL: You say it's your Baarf Day.


SAGAL: A name becomes a symbol for heroism in a small town. Your next story of giving love to a bad name comes from Kyrie O'Connor.

KYRIE O'CONNOR: The next time you hock up a loogie, think of figure skating. Really. The Robitussin company has hooked up with Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming for a campaign seeking people with icky cold and fever related names. Now, you may never have associated the lovely Miss Fleming with the viscus secretion phlegm.


O'CONNOR: But yes, Robitussin went there. And they want more. They're calling for all of you with cold and fever related names. Come on down, Mr. Itchy, and I know you're out there. Announce your presence, families of Stuffies. All you little Miss Sneezes, now we really say bless you. You multiple Mr. Fevers, your temperature is up.

The hundred of you name mucus; frankly, we really wanted to help you fill out the name change form. Sorry.


O'CONNOR: If you register at the Robitussin website, you'll get a coupon and the thanks of a grateful nation for just being you.

SAGAL: Peggy Fleming.


SAGAL: Becomes the first of people with names redolent of head colds to register for the Robitussin. And your last story of what's in a name comes from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: It was a Facebook friend suggestion that brought Nickelodeon executive Mark Ellis' attention to 12-year-old Spongebob Squarepants. "I was on Facebook one day and this thing pops up, suggesting I follow Spongebob Squarepants. I thought, hey, we're Spongebob Squarepants. I contacted legal, and guess what, it's a kid's name."

Spongebob Squarepants is, in fact, a 12-year-old. "My real friends call me Robert," says Spongebob.


POUNDSTONE: But my real name is Spongebob Squarepants. Spongebob Squarepants Smith's mother loved the popular animated character, and frustrated by the common last name Smith, wanted to give her son a moniker that would really stand out. "He's a great kid," says Nickelodeon's Ellis. "When we found out about him, we couldn't resist doing something for him. I mean, imagine weathering the storm of that name."

"They sent me sheets and tub toys," says Spongebob. "I sent them back. My name is Spongebob Squarepants Smith. I don't laugh like that dude. I don't even like that show that much. I don't even like the beach that much. I am not yellow. I'm not a sponge. People can't do dishes with me."


POUNDSTONE: "I told them I wanted them to donate science books to my school. They were cool about it. It's been a hard name to have, but my bother Jiggly Puff has had it worse."


SAGAL: Spongebob Squarepants Smith, a 12-year-old boy comes to terms with his interesting name.

So let me review then, in addition to that story from Paula, you also had, from Peter, the story of the heroic Dr. Baarf, whose name has now become a synonym for heroism. And from Kyrie O'Connor, how the Robitussin company is looking for people with names redolent of symptoms of head colds, so they can reward them with coupons. Which of these is the real story in the week's news?


SAGAL: Yeah.


KLINE: Well, I'm kind of intrigued by Peter's and Kyrie's. I think I'm going to go with the Robitussin story.

SAGAL: You're going to go with the Robitussin story from Kyrie. All right, well here is somebody with a name in question, discussing their experience.

PEGGY FLEMING: I've trusted Robitussin for many years and I love the campaign of simple acts of relief. That really celebrates and has fun with my last name, Fleming.

SAGAL: That was Peggy Fleming, talking about the Robitussin campaign.


SAGAL: You know what's funny about that, I've known about Peggy Fleming ever since she became an Olympic star, and it never occurred to me that her name had the syllable "flem" in it and now I will never be able to think of anything else.


SAGAL: So good for you, Peggy. But good for you, Josh, you got it right. You've earned a point for Kyrie O'Connor for telling the truth. You've won our prize, Carl's voice on your home answering machine. Well done, yes.


SAGAL: Thank you so much for playing.

KLINE: Thank you for having me.

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