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I've recently come across the phrase "tragically named". I first thought the author invented it but I've googled it all over the place.

The first time I saw its usage was on http://gizmodo.com/big-jambox/:

Before you buy, you should also take a look at Sony's tragically named SA-NS500 Portable Wi-Fi Speaker, which boasts better sound plus Airplay. But it's also far less portable—it's bigger and heavier and harder to set up—and it costs an extra $100. Given that the entire point of wireless speakers is portability (after all if it wasn't, just run some cable) that's an important feature.

What could be the origin?

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Perhaps you could add some examples, to show where it's used in context? –  J.R. May 27 '12 at 9:52
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This seems to be just the words "tragically" and "named" used together with their normal meanings, and not really a set phrase of any kind. –  Mark Beadles May 27 '12 at 20:14
    
What Mark said. Google tells me there are thousands of instances of, for example, "tragically gifted" out there on the Net. Neither of these word-pairs are in any sense "phrases" with any more meaning than the sum of the two component words. –  FumbleFingers May 28 '12 at 23:12

2 Answers 2

I was going to answer that it simply means "piteously inappropriate" because the Portable Wi-Fi Speaker is anything but portable. That would be at best a colloquial use of the word.

However it may actually have a relationship to tragedy:

a dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction.

Perhaps Sony's product is so flawed (because Portable is a patent misnomer) that the author feels it is ultimately destined for failure and withdrawal.

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There seem to be at least two different meanings to the phrase “tragically named.” In the first meaning, the tragedy arises from the name itself, as in this example:

Tragedy is the keynote to Warwick Deeping's tragically named novel Doomsday.

From: Catholic world, Volume 125, Paulist Fathers, 1927

“Doomsday” is a word that in itself evokes tragedy. In the second meaning, the tragedy arises from the contradiction between the name and what it refers to, as in this example:

A few of Fitch's stockholders got together and reorganized half-heartedly, but his fourth boat, tragically named the Perseverance, was never finished.

From: Inventors behind the inventor, Roger Burlingame, 1947

“Perseverance” hardly evokes tragedy, here the tragedy arises from its reference to a construction project that was abandoned.

I think in the first meaning, the phrase could be replaced by “dramatically named” and in the second meaning by “misfortunately named,” but not the other way around.

The example you gave seems to fit the second meaning. I don't know when the phrase was first used in this way, but the above example dates back to 1947 so it's at least not of recent coinage.

Additional Examples

Here's another example of the first meaning: (for some reason, Google Books doesn't show the actual quote for all of the following examples; you can find them with a general search for the phrase on Google Books though)

Mary also showed me what she tragically named “pots of calamity” [...]

From: African women, Sylvia Leith-Ross, 1965

And another example of the second meaning:

[...] is a simple story of a forlorn, neglected child, tragically named Lovejoy [...]

From: Popular World Fiction, Walton Beacham, Suzanne Niemeyer, 1987

One could quibble over whether the following is another example of the first meaning or represents yet a third meaning. “Doomsday” and “calamity” evoke tragedy in the sense of a catastrophic event, while “Calliope” evokes tragedy in the sense of the dramatic genre.

I knew that Calliope, tragically named after the muse of epic poetry [...]

From: Collier's, Volume 49, 1912

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