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What Is an Astonished Tamale?

Just what is an “astonished tamale”, anyway?

Several people have asked me what the name means and why I chose it for this blog. There are several answers. The first two were promptly pegged by my friend Patricia Visser, in her thoughtful comments on the first article:

1. I love to be astonished! It’s one of my favorite feelings (and I’m easily astonished). I love a good magic trick (and I’m easily fooled). In books and movies, I love a stunning, perhaps even diabolical plot twist (and I’m easily caught off guard). I love divine grace and divine providence, especially when God manifests them in ways that are unforeseen and unforeseeable. (I’ve had way more divine grace than I deserve; but then, isn’t that the very definition of grace? Getting more than we deserve or ever could deserve?)

Perhaps most telling for this web site, I love to write about things that astonish me. Few things are more unifying than a shared sense of wonder. Since the world is filled with miracles capable of evoking that tingling sense — let’s talk about them!

2. I love great food.

3. The best website domain names seem to be either (a) unusually generic and ordinary (hence memorable), or (b) utterly unique and outrageous (hence memorable). You’ve probably heard how Marc Ostrofsky paid $150,000 for the name “”, then sold it for $7.5 million. He argues that the most general, least specific domain names generate the most traffic: Thus, names like “” or “” (with which he’s also made fortunes) work better than brand-specific sites.

The trouble is that most of these wide-open, umbrella-concept domain names are by now all taken. (If you find a great one lying around, snap it up.) Meanwhile, it also works, for at least some websites, to brand themselves with “wild and crazy” names: Google, Yahoo, Mozilla. There’s a new, up-and-coming search engine called DuckDuckGo. And so forth.

Anyway, “The Astonished Tamale!” can’t be any zanier than those, and it has a nice ring, don’t you think?

4. Rainn Wilson has his “Soul Pancake”. Why can’t I have my “Astonished Tamale”?

5. So far as I could learn, the name “Astonished Tamale” is utterly unique. No evidence turned up to suggest that the expression has ever been used anywhere, by anyone, in any context. Here’s the story:

Before choosing any name (for a book, website, company, or whatnot) I conduct an in-depth Internet search to learn whether others already are using it, and how. In this case I googled “astonished tamale” both with and without quotation marks. (You probably know the rule: Without quotation marks, Google returns pages containing any or all of your search terms, in any order, and not necessarily adjacent. But with quotation marks, it returns only pages containing the exact phrase.)

There were plenty of hits showing “astonished” and “tamale” on the same page. But Google couldn’t find a single use of the actual expression “astonished tamale”. Not even with the words in different sentences separated by punctuation; for example: “I was astonished. Tamale recipes are so hard to find.”

The good news is that when you now google “astonished tamale”, this website is the very first result that pops up. Of course, the bad news is, who’d ever think to google it if one didn’t already know the name? So let’s spread the word! Please, help make “astonished tamale” one of the hottest, most popular Internet searches.

6. Best reason for last: The name is an anagram. Rearrange the letters in “astonished tamale”, and they refer to someone who means a great deal to me. Alas, I’m not free to identify that individual. Journalists are all about divulging secrets except the confidential ones we learn off-the-record. This secret isn’t mine to tell. If, however, you succeed in unscrambling the code, please let me know. Then my anonymous friend will probably want to talk with you.

But we all need to be talking anyway. So what do YOU think? Please comment using the form below.

3 comments to What Is an Astonished Tamale?

  • Linda Burrows Helms

    Gary, I had no idea such humor resided beneath that oft-seen exterior! Thanks for pointing me to your blog; I definitely will be looking forward to your next wryly informing meanderings.

  • Jason and Rachel

    We love the name!

  • Janelle

    I like the name. It is so strong. So dynamic. So open ended. What is the cause of the astonishment??? Will it be known — ever???
    I am so glad you did not choose “timid taco” which would never have been suitable.

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