All About Armenian Last Names

May 23rd, 2007

I like Armenian last names because quite often they are easily identifiable. That combined with the fact that there are so few of us around the world makes for a fun game of “Spot the Armenians” in almost any list of names; whether they be movie credits, class attendance sheets, or whatever else.

The following is a brief overview on the composition and history of Armenian last names. It is reprinted from a recent edition of the Gibrahayer (Cypriot-Armenian) Newsletter. The one thing that is a bit odd is that they don’t talk about the Indo-European roots of the “ian” suffix.


Most Armenian names end in “ian” or “yan,” meaning the “son of,” but some Diaspora Armenians have changed these endings to blend in their host societies. Today in Turkey “oglu” often replaces “ian,” while Russian Armenians may change the endings to “ov”; e.g., Gary Kasparov, Serge Parajanov. A name ending in “ian” is not always exclusively Armenian, since the ending can also be occasionally found in names in Irish, Persian, English, Philippine and some other cultures. Armenian last names generally fall into five specific categories: Aristocracy, Parent, Geography, Occupation or Trait.

The ancient Armenian aristocracy (“Nakharar” class) was derived from Parthian-Persian stock and many of their names ended in “uni” or “ooni.” Most of these families were destroyed over the centuries but some still survive today; e.g., Sasuni, Rshtuni.

Many Armenian names are derived from the first names of an ancestor; e.g. Davidian, “son of David,” Stepanian, “son of Stepan,” or Krikorian, “son of Krikor/Grigor.” Until the 19th century, virtually all first names had a religious origin, so most of those last names are also religious.

Some last names are based on geographic origin and end in “lian” (Turkish) or “tsian” (Armenian). Typical examples are Sivaslian “from Sivas,” Urfalian “from Urfa” and Vanetzian “from Van.” These names were typically given to an immigrant who migrated from a different region of Armenia. Obviously everyone living in Marash would not call himself or herself “Marashlian”.

Most last names were taken from the professions of an ancestor. These names frequently originated with the tax collectors who needed to identify all individuals for tax purposes. Typical examples are Najarian “son of a carpenter,” Arabian “son of a wagon/ teamster,” and Vosgarichian “son of a goldsmith.” Many of these occupations are not Armenian, since the tax man (typically a Moslem Turk, Persian, Arab, etc.) would use his own native word for the occupation; e.g., the name Boyajian is based on the Arab/Turkish term “boyaji” “one who dyes.”

The most confusing and curious names are those based on some trait of an ancestor. Typical examples are Topalian “son of the cripple,” Dilsizian “son of the tongueless one,” or Sinanian “son of the spearpoint.” Many of the origins of these names are unclear unless one understands the original context. As an example, Dilsizian indicates that an ancestor had his tongue cut out by the Turks for using the Armenian language, while the term “Sinan” was a slang term applied to somebody either with a very erect military-like carriage or who was “hung like a horse.” Some of these traits are not physical, but rather reflect personality or social status; e.g., Melikian “son of the king” or Harutunian “son of the resurrection.” The name Harutunian could be based on an ancestor named Harutune (so-named because he was born around Eastertime), or adopted by a convert to Protestantism to show his status as a “born-again Christian.”

Many last names today have been shortened or modified to aid pronunciations by non Armenians; e.g., the name Mugerditchian/ Mkrtichian” becomes “Mugar,” “Husseniglian,” become s “Hewsen,” and Samourkashian” becomes “Samour.” These abbreviated names often drop the ian” ending, and are not immediately identifiable as being Armenian to an outsider. The name categories of Occupation and Trait can differ significantly between Eastern Armenians and Western Armenians, since the eastern names often have Persian, Georgian or Russian roots, while the western names may have Turkish, Arab, or Greek roots. Names with the prefix “Der” or “Ter” show that one of the ancestors was a “Der Hayr” a married parish priest), a position of great social status among Armenians; e.g., DerBedrosian, Ter Petrosian.

The study of Armenian Names is a fascinating exercise, since virtually every aspect of the culture is reflected in names. There have been extensive studies of Armenian names in the Armenian language, but little has appeared in English and many Armenians (born outside of Armenia) do not understand the significance of their own names.

Hacking It Up – Black Ops Style

May 3rd, 2007

A couple of weeks ago on a harmless April Friday, we held our first Hack Day at work. It was totally inspired by and loosely modeled after Yahoo’s Open Hack Day, with the notable exception that ours was not “open”. I think Yahoo’s Hack Day was a great idea and I was very excited to see us doing something similar.

Given the fact that I hadn’t done any serious programming for a while — sorry Expedia Dashboard widget, you don’t count — I was itching to enter the contest to stretch my coding skills a bit and, of course, blow everyone away with something so cool we had to win. Lucky for me I had some friends at work who were interested in doing the same. So armed with two rock star developers and two crazy program managers who code (“why would PM’s write code??? they say), we formed an elite black ops unit that began to meet and discuss the details of our project.

Hack Day came around and we hacked our little hearts out. I learned JavaScript tricks I never knew existed, we became intimately familiar with the Prototype library (don’t write JavaScript without it!) and writing object oriented JS, and we wore out the JS debugger and other tools in Firebug — the Firefox extension sent from the heavens unto web developers everywhere.

Working day and night through the weekend on our project (yes I know it was Hack Day but they said if we wanted to work all weekend, more power to us) took me back to the nights spent in Soda Hall on the Berkeley campus trying to finish up one of our many CS class projects a few nights before it was due.

Lots of lines of Java, XML, JavaScript, and CSS and three days later we had completed our vision for a next-generation travel shopping experience. We showed our prototype at the judging the following Wednesday and it was a big hit. Since the initial presentation we’ve been inundated with questions and requests for demos for various groups. Tonight we found out that we won and tied for first place. We had a lot of fun working on the project and I can honestly say I’m very proud of the work we did.

Anyway, if you were wondering why I had been MIA the last couple of weeks, now you know what I was doing pretty much that whole time. I can’t post screenshots or videos of our prototype here but if you know me and are interested in hearing more about this, get in touch with me. Hopefully someday soon I can point to something on the live site and say it was inspired by (or is!) our Hack Day project.

Introducing Fight Critic

April 4th, 2007

Fight Critic Header

I have been busy working on a couple of other web sites. One of those is ready for the world and had its “grand opening” yesterday.

Fight Critic is a blog where I’m going to continue posting my thoughts about mixed martial arts news and events. The couple of posts I made here on C-Objectively were fun to write and were popular enough that I decided it was something I wanted to keep doing.

I hope my readers here that are interested in MMA or combat sports will give Fight Critic a shot. And tell your friends!

It Is Still Cool To Hate Microsoft

March 22nd, 2007

Anti-Microsft sentiment is not really a new thing so you could say that I shouldn’t be surprised at some of the things I’ve been noticing recently. And yet, I am. I’m amazed at the consistent hate towards Microsoft in the media and software industries, and the subtle installation of those biases in the minds of others.

Exhibit #1 – “Mac Office users were Microsoft ‘guinea pigs’, MacWorld UK
This article from Johnny Evans at MacWorld UK was published after the public release of some internal Microsoft e-mails that discussed their plans for a Mac version of Office back in 1997. In the e-mail Ben Waldman, seemingly one of the leaders of the Mac Office ’97 team, implores Bill Gates and other Microsoft executives to come to a final decision on releasing the newest version of Mac Office they have been developing. His e-mail explains his motivations in detail but to sum up, he is most concerned with:

  1. Getting a great new product that’s almost ready to their Mac-using customers
  2. Trying not to crush the enthusiasm of what had to be a pretty large team of program managers, developers, and testers at Microsoft who had been working on Mac Office ’97 for months

Instead of focusing on or even mentioning the positives in Ben’s e-mail, Evans attempts to use this e-mail as proof of Microsoft’s evil tactics against Mac users. What he ends up doing instead is showing his complete lack of understanding of software development and sound business planning.

Despite the mud-slinging in the MacWorld UK and other articles, Microsoft’s tactic of trying things out on their smaller audience for Mac Office is actually “a good thing”. Since Mac Office is a product that is not as crucial to their business and bottom line, they have the opportunity to take some risks with it that they probably never would consider with the Windows version of Office. The outrage from their shareholders and the pundits would be huge if Microsoft tried out some risky or wacky UI ideas in the Windows version of Office that sent sales of the next version plummeting.

That’s not to say that the Mac version of Office should or would always get new features before they were introduced into the Windows version. It simply provides that opportunity for Microsoft. And if taken as a whole, Ben’s e-mail shows you that behind whatever legal or business wrangling was going on between Microsoft and Apple at the time, the people behind Mac Office ’97 believed in the product they were working on, worked hard to make it a good one, and wanted to deliver it into the hands of their faithful Mac-using customers.

Since when do we rip on companies for doing careful planning and testing of changes to the cash cow of their business?

Exhibit #2 – “Microsoft’s Meltdown, ZDNet UK
This article is just more of the sensationalist garbage that is typical of the media today. Maybe the media are producing more sensationalist articles and headlines because there are more things vying for readers’ attention than ever; they think it is the only way to find readers or viewers.

In an article attributed to the entire publication, ZDNet UK condemns every word Microsoft says and every byte of software Microsoft ships or has shipped until they can explain how there was a bug in OneCare, their anti-virus software. Apparently there was a bug in OneCare that, in some cases, would quarantine, not delete as ZDNet claims, a user’s entire e-mail collection if a virus was found in any one of the e-mails they had received or sent.

Is that a bad bug to have in an anti-virus program? Yes, definitely. Is it bad enough to condemn Microsoft forever as producing completely untrustworthy software? Not even close.

In a forum discussing the issue, someone from Microsoft stated that “this problem was found in beta and fixed

Post UFC 68 Thoughts

March 6th, 2007

UPDATE: Thanks for reading my post about UFC 68. I’ve started a new blog where I can post regularly about the UFC and MMA in general. Check out Fight Critic.

UFC 68 went down last Saturday evening in Ohio. I wasn’t very excited about this card and did not end up ordering the PPV for myself. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly that makes me so much more excited about PRIDE events than UFC ones. Maybe it’s because there are so many more UFC events that there aren’t as many exciting fights? In general I think it has to do with the fighters’ efforts to finish the fight and stay aggressive. I think not being able to clinch and stand against the cage helps keep PRIDE fights more interesting. Anyway, I did end up catching most of the fights later thanks to a friend’s recording.

I’m not going to recap the events of the fights themselves, like I did for PRIDE 33, as there are plenty of good write-ups already posted that do that. Instead you’re going to get my commentary and opinion on some of the fights and their outcomes.

Randy Couture vs Tim Sylvia
UFC 68 has given me a reason to celebrate; for the simple reason that Tim Sylvia was exposed to the masses as what many MMA fans have known for some time: Tim Sylvia is an unoriginal, lumbering, zombie-like freak of nature that has won most of his fights due to a tremendous reach/height advantage or mistakes on the part of his opponents. I have mixed feelings about the outcome though, since I think Sylvia could have been dismantled in even more dramatic fashion by Mirko Cro Cop, aka The Terminator.

As it is, Sylvia was out-wrestled, out-grappled, and out-boxed by 43 year-old Light Heavyweight Randy Couture. Captain America dominated The Maine-iac in every facet of the fight. And his game plan to fight the 6’8″ behemoth was a thing of beauty to watch as it was put into action. Sylvia on the other hand seemed like a broken record; constantly lumbering forward awkwardly and throwing the same two slow-motion punches for five rounds. I think this fight showed more than anything, that Randy is one of the most intelligent fighters in the game; and it’s extremely dangerous to underestimate what he is capable of, even at this age.

However, Randy’s victory does have me worried about something. According to recent interviews with Dana White, President of the UFC, the winner of this fight is going to fight the winner of the Mirko Cro Cop / Gabriel Gonzaga match at UFC 70 in the UK. Barring some freak accident, the winner of that fight will be Cro Cop. I don’t know of another MMA fighter who deals as much striking damage per minute than Cro Cop. He employs an unrelenting and devastating move-forward offense and couples that with exceedingly good takedown defense. I would hate to see Randy be completely dismantled by Cro Cop right after winning the belt from Sylvia. In fact, despite Sylvia’s loss here, I’d still love to see him fight Cro Cop and put his money where his mouth is on his previous claims of being able to match up with the best in the world at Heavyweight.

Oh and Tim, copying Chuck Lidell’s hairstyle is not going to help make you anywhere near as liked by fans as he is.

Chris Lytle vs Matt Hughes
Chris was expected to lose this fight and he did. Hughes was in control but not as dominant as many of his fans would have liked. I’m not sure we saw anything from Hughes in this fight to indicate he’s somehow improved enough to get a different outcome at Hughes vs GSP 3 than Hughes vs GSP 2. I can’t say I’m disappointed though. Any fighter that says he lost a fight because it was God’s plan and not the other fighter’s superior skill is a jerk. I’m looking forward to George St. Pierre dismantling Hughes for a second time.

Jason Lambert vs Renato “Babalu” Sobral
With the exception of Babalu’s extremely stupid approach to beating Chuck Lidell in their most recent encounter (running after him throwing wild punches and leaving himself wide open for the counter-punch KO), he has fought, and often beaten, many of the top fighters in the 205-lbs division. That makes Jason Lambert’s knock-out win over Babalu all-the-more interesting. Jason’s win has also placed him at #10 in MMAWeekly’s latest Top 10 Fighter rankings. That doesn’t make much sense though since he recently lost to Rashad Evans, a fighter who has been on a tear recently in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. Rashad is nowhere to be found in the rankings. Jason’s a better fighter than the guy he lost to six months ago? Maybe the MMAWeekly editors could explain that one for us.

Jason MacDonald vs Rich Franklin
Franklin beat MacDonald by tap-out due to strikes. No surprises here. MacDonald is a good fighter but not on Rich’s level yet. Again, like the Hughes match, the caliber of Rich’s opponent does not allow for much analysis on any changes Rich may have made to get a different result out of the forthcoming Franklin/Silva rematch. That is a match I am definitely looking forward to. I doubt that Franklin will let Silva dominate him in the clinch again.

UFC 68 Wrap-Up
The results from this event dictate three upcoming title fight match-ups we will probably see very soon:

  1. Rich Franklin vs Anderson Silva 2
  2. Matt Hughes vs George St. Pierre 3
  3. Mirko Cro Cop vs Randy Couture (Most Likely)

Some other fights I think we should see based on the results of UFC 68 are:

  1. Quinton Jackson vs Jason Lambert – since the Ortiz/Jardine fight isn’t happening until the end of May, and neither of those guys would be ready to fight again for at least a couple of months, this is a fight I wouldn’t mind seeing in the mean time.
  2. Quinton Jackson vs Winner of Tito Ortiz / Keith Jardine fight
  3. Rashad Evans vs Loser of the Tito/Keith match
  4. Jon Fitch vs Karo Parisyan – I would love to see Karo back in action against another tough opponent. Why is the UFC putting him up against Josh Burkman, who lost to Fitch last year?

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Expedia Travel Search Dashboard Widget

March 1st, 2007

Screenshot of Expedia Search Dashboard widget

Download the Expedia Search Dashboard widget

A few weeks ago I noticed that Apple finally released a beta of Dashcode. I grabbed it of course and started to play with it; happy that widget creation wasn’t mind bogglingly annoying any more. This Expedia Search Dashboard widget is the first product of many from my tinkering in Dashcode.

The widget gives you a quick way to look up travel destination information, availability, and pricing. The whole thing is based on the Expedia Travel Search feature which is in Beta right now.

Here are some examples of searches you can do with this Dashboard widget:

  1. General Destination Search – “Atlanta” will take you to a page with deals for traveling to Atlanta and information on attractions for when you get there.
  2. Flight Search – “Seattle New York” will show you results for round-trip flights from Seattle to New York City in departing in two weeks. You can also specify a date range (6/21-6/26), a month (June), or a season (summer).
  3. Hotel Search – “Hotels in London” will show you results for hotels in London in two weeks. You can get specific with dates and months just like the flight search.
  4. Rental Car Search – “Cars in Miami” will get you the results for rental cars in Miami; same date stuff applies from flights and hotels.
  5. Cruise Search – “One Week Caribbean Cruise in July” will get you results for 6-9 night Caribbean cruises leaving in July. You can be less specific with the length of the cruise or the date range if you want.
  6. Popular Destination Search – “Disneyland” will get you to a page with deals and packages to visit Disneyland.
  7. Itinerary Search – “[your itinerary # goes here]” will take you to an updated view of your saved or booked Expedia itinerary. If you don’t know your itinerary number, you can search for “My Itineraries”.
  8. Flight Status Check “Flight Status AA 495” will get you the status of American Airlines Flight 495. You have to use the airline’s two-digit code for this one.
  9. Check the Weather “Weather in Seattle”, or any other city instead of gloomy Seattle, will take you to… a weather forecast for that city. Surprise!
  10. Currency Converter “Currency” or “Currency Converter” will take you to a currency converter.

Oh and remember:

  • Anything you search for is NOT case sensitive.
  • If you don’t enter a date, it will assume you’re leaving in two weeks.
  • It will remember your last ten searches. Just click on the little magnifying glass to get a drop-down selection.

That should be enough to get you started. Wow, this little guy sure does a lot. But remember, the text search feature at Expedia is in Beta and it’s not perfect. I know the guys at who built it and you’re more than welcome to leave your feedback on this widget, and the Expedia Travel Search feature in general, right here in the comments for this post. I will relay any non-widget-specific feedback to the search guys. And just to be clear, this is not an Expedia-endorsed product. I built this on my own, in my own time.

Next time I will try my hand at an Expedia Fare Calendar Dashboard widget. In the meantime, you can check out the official Expedia Fare Calendar Google Gadget that was just released.

Enjoy your trip!

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Watch a Ferrari V12 Get Built

February 28th, 2007
Ferrari logo

For anyone interested in cars, engines, how things are built or, ummm, how about… FERRARIS!? Check out this five minute video of how a Ferrari V12 is built.

Speaking of Ferraris, I saw a buddy at work today wearing a T-shirt with a tagline, “Save the Enzos”. This is probably meaningless to everyone except car news nuts that have been following the story of extremely rare Ferrari Enzos being totaled about once a month now for the past year. Me on the other hand? I thought it was hilarious.

Via Autoblog

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Expedia’s New Ad Campaign – Go With Confidence

February 27th, 2007

Update 2/28/07 – Link to a page where you can view the new Go With Confidence Expedia ad.

At long last our new ad campaign is revealed! Our ads have traditionally been sort of funny and always catchy. I’m not sure what it is about Expedia ads that stand out and maybe I am just crazy to think so. I think it may have something to do with being one of the first “dot com” companies to heavily advertise on television and to be one of the very few that still does so with the “.com” in their name. Or it could be the beloved (hated?) and memorable jingle.

That being said, I like the new ad campaign. I especially like the yellow suitcases that Expedia “customers” take with themselves on their trips. I even like our new spokesman. What I don’t like is that we’re no longer using the original Expedia.commmmm jingle. In fact, I’m devastated about this one insignificant thing. Or is it insignificant? Watch the new ad and tell me because I am curious what people think of the new rendition of the old jingle.

You can catch the new Expedia ads at your local purveyor of quality prime time television starting this week, including Deal or No Deal, Late Show with David Letterman, Heroes, Law & Order, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and other fine shows brought to you by the letters E and C, the number 1, and your local cable company.

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Google Reader – Meet Google Homepage

February 27th, 2007

For a very long time, probably ever since I actually cared about news, I have been getting my news from the Internet. Whether it be world news, automotive news, tech news, or whatever other drivel was interesting at the time. Recently, I finally succumbed to the cries of “Use syndication, use RSS” and started making use of Google’s Personalized Homepage feature. It lets you throw multiple feeds onto a page with a Google search box at the top of it, and makes for a fairly good one stop shop for taking a glance at my news feeds.

Now the cries from the tech-y friends are changing, “use Google Reader” they say. I’ve looked at it before and to be quite honest, I didn’t find the UI very appealing. In fact, I haven’t found the UI for any feed readers I’ve tried compelling enough to make me want to use them. That goes double for feed readers which live outside of my browser and don’t let me take advantage of one of my most beloved user behaviors: opening all the articles I want to read in tabs behind the current one, then quickly scanning them and closing the tab — the next one, already loaded, appears and is ready for my consumption.

Well anyway, I thought I would give Google Reader another shot. And I naively assumed that since Google Homepage and Google Reader are run by the same people, that Google Reader would at the very least give me the option of picking which of the feeds on my home page I wanted to also read from Google Reader. At best, it would have a folder containing all of the feeds from Homepage and I could just remove or reorganize them as I saw fit. Well, neither one of those is the case. As far as I can tell, Google Reader doesn’t know, or care to know, anything about the 20+ feeds I have painstakingly plastered across the four tabs of my Google Homepage.

Here’s news for you Google: I don’t care to know about Google Reader.

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PRIDE 33: The Second Coming

February 26th, 2007

UPDATE: Thanks for reading my post about PRIDE 33. I’ve started a new blog where I can post regularly about PRIDE and MMA in general. Check out Fight Critic.

PRIDE 33: The Second Coming took place yesterday in Las Vegas. This was only PRIDE’s second show in the US; their other shows to date have been in Japan, their home country. I think PRIDE puts on some of the best MMA shows in the world and this one was no exception. Taken as a whole, PRIDE 33 was one of the most exciting MMA shows in recent memory. It was packed with brutal KO’s, slick submissions, and surprising upsets. While the production values on this show were down a bit from PRIDE’s usual effort, the quality of the fights more than made up for it.

Starting the Show
Nobuhiko Takada, hereafter known as Nobu and “President” of PRIDE, gave some opening remarks in extremely broken English, welcoming people to the 2nd US event for the promotion. Only problem I have with that is that I couldn’t understand half of what he said, and it took him five minutes to say it when I could have said it in dramatic fashion in no more than one. Then we’re shown a video highlight reel introducing some of the fighters fighting that night. The video ends with an incredibly confusing series of statements:

MMA is your world
The Cage is your world
This Ring is the Universe

I honestly don’t know what this means; it’s obviously a bad translation from Japanese. Since the world is only a small part of the universe, maybe they’re trying to say that PRIDE is bigger than cage-fighting (the UFC) and MMA itself? Who knows. What I do know is that if PRIDE is serious about finding mass market acceptance for their product here, they are going to need to get producers working on their shows who at the very least know English and at best, understand marketing and US popular culture very well. While I may find things like that quirky or even funny just because I know enough about Japanese culture to know how different it is from ours, most people will just be weirded out and turned off by it.

Jason Ireland vs Joachim Hansen
I’d never seen Jason Ireland fight but he put up a decent fight against “known finisher” Hansen; not sure that was expected. In the first round we saw Ireland land some good leg kicks on Hansen. Hansen was in complete control when they went to the ground though. Ireland gave up his back numerous times throughout the fight but Hansen was not able to really capitalize on it. The first round ended with Ireland reversing on the ground, getting on top, and showing some offense. Hansen probably wins this round.

Second round saw Hansen throwing some high kicks, a flying knee, and some hard knees from the clinch. They go to the ground and Hansen mounts Ireland eventually, then gets his back; at this point the action in the fight has slowed to a crawl. Hansen’s arm bar attempt goes the other way when Ireland doesn’t roll the way he’d like, but he still holds onto it until the round ends. Hansen clearly wins this round.

Third round gives us some more circling on the feet, they go to the ground with Ireland on top and Hansen goes for a triangle. Ireland held on while Hansen pummeled his head in the triangle, then Hansen transitioned to an arm bar. Ireland eventually taps out and that’s the fight. Jason Ireland showed some potential while fighting a top guy like Joachim Hansen, but Hansen was never in any real danger.

Frank Trigg vs Kazuo Misaki
I don’t know why PRIDE decided to change the way they produce the fighter intro videos but it seems they were feeding the arena audio into the TV feed. The volume of the fighters’ voices was too low and muddled to be understood. I hope they never make this mistake again; it’s looking like amateur hour which is not common with PRIDE production values.

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