1. Overhead Smash

We at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab like to think that nothing surprises us.

Until, that is, we hear a story like the New York Stock Exchange's watermelon incident.

The New York Post's Page Six column -- which, to its credit, never appears on page six of the paper -- reported Wednesday that an NYSE floor broker had sneaked the comedian Gallagher onto the floor of the exchange Tuesday. There, reported the Post, the performer with the signature watermelon-smashing shtick pulled "a large chunk of watermelon" from his pocket and smashed it over the head of "an unsuspecting victim," another floor broker. The mastermind behind the Gallagher prank, one Arthur Gross, was summarily fined $1,000, reported the Post.

Now that's not something you see every day -- Gallagher smashing a watermelon over the head of a trader at the NYSE.

Our curiosity piqued, we called up Gallagher to check whether this actually happened.

As with so many other things reported in the New York Post, it did. Sort of.

Yes, admits Gallagher -- who was in town doing publicity for a Saturday night show at Long Island's Westbury Music Fair -- he did smash watermelon onto the head of an NYSE floor broker, Peter Tuchman.

But, says Gallagher, it was a tiny cube of rindless watermelon, not a large chunk. "It was small," says Gallagher, whom we at the lab tend to trust on the subject of watermelons. "It was the size of a business card," he says. After the impact, he says, "it almost totally disappeared."

And contrary to the Post's account -- and the apparent impression of NYSE officials -- this was no premeditated prank engineered by Gross on an unsuspecting victim. Gallagher, who was in the neighborhood Tuesday to visit a securities lawyer, was invited onto the floor by a fan who happened to recognize him on the street.

At the exchange, says Gallagher, he met Gross and a whole bunch of other folks on the floor. They were having a great time, says Gallagher. He handed out the watermelon-flavored taffy he carries around with him to give to fans he meets. He watched a floor broker trade 10 shares of Berkshire Hathaway ( BRKA). One of the people he joked around with was Tuchman, who, after he introduced himself to Gallagher, showed an old picture of himself -- before he'd started shaving his head -- with long, red hair -- just like Gallagher's.

Finally, someone -- Gallagher doesn't recall who -- handed him this watermelon cube, which Gallagher believes came out of a fruit salad somewhere. He was in the center of the room. Everyone was watching. What could he do? If you hand Tiger Woods a golf club, he swings it. If you hand Gallagher some watermelon, he smashes it. It's destiny.

So why Tuchman? He'd already joked around with Gallagher. Plus, the shaved head was irresistible. (We, personally, would have gone after NYSE chairman Dick Grasso, he of the trapezoidal, smooth cranium.) "It got a huge cheer," says Gallagher. "It was a wonderful, wonderful moment."

Unfortunately, things soon soured. Gross was summarily fined $1,000. And though other NYSE members happily passed the hat on his behalf, Gross and an unnamed alleged co-conspirator face further disciplinary measures, says Gallagher.

But it's not their fault, insists Gallagher. "It's really the crowd," he says. "The crowd makes you do something."

Meanwhile, it turns out Gallagher, a 56-year-old former chemicals salesman, is wild about tech stocks.


Wish I Had a Watermelon
Gallagher at the NYSE

He's been playing the market since the mid-1980s, getting the bug despite losing a chunk of change on Apple ( AAPL). He estimates he's lost $300,000 in the market over the past three years, but he's up $80,000 over the past month. He's so into investing, he's got five different brokerage accounts, and he dreams of hosting a daily radio show for investors. But neither Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI) nor XM Satellite Radio ( XMSR) are returning his calls.

Hmmm. The tech-stock bubble. Smashing a watermelon at the NYSE. There's a common theme here: the madness of crowds.

2. Talk About Triple Witching Hour

Remember back in 1991 when Philadelphia 76ers star Charles Barkley complained he'd been misquoted -- in his autobiography?

Well, the financial world this week got its very own Barkley: Paul Gulden, manager of the ( PXWGX) Pax World Growth fund.

It all started when TheStreet.com's ace personal finance reporter, Beverly Goodman, forwarded to us a Wednesday press release devoted to Gulden's outlook for tech stocks. The first thing that caught our eye was a Zagat Guide-like obsession with fragmentary quotes, as in the subheading "With 'Pioneer' and 'Platform' Tech Stocks Played Out, 'Ancillary' Tech Comes to Fore."

What a "concept," we think. This fund manager's "ideas" are "interesting."

The second thing we noticed was the write-up of Symbol Technologies ( SBL). "In the world of computing," reads the release, "technology is now in its fifth incantation."

Wall Street Witchcraft
Can't recant an incantation

Hmm. Incantation. As in, "the chanting of magical words or formulas that are supposed to cast a spell or perform other magic," according to Webster's. Is it possible that Gulden meant "incarnation," as in "embodiment"? (The quote isn't attributed directly to Gulden, but his ideas have the starring role throughout the release.)

So we called up Gulden and asked him what this "incantation" means. "You tell me what it means. I don't know," he replied. That stuff about incantation is "not my language," he says.

The PR representative who evidently wrote the release wasn't available for guidance. But -- because the total return on Pax World Growth is about negative 39% over Gulden's three-year tenure, compared with a negative 29% for the S&P 500 -- it occurred to us that a fifth incantation might be a good idea for tech investing at Pax World. You never know what will boost returns.

3. Coincidentally, We're Changing Our Name to DumbThingLab

Speaking of good words gone bad, Barry Diller comes through again.

The chief executive of USA Interactive ( USAI) -- the e-commerce parent of Ticketmaster, Expedia ( EXPE) and Hotels.com ( ROOM) -- announced Thursday that USA was changing its name. The next incantation of USA is slated to debut Monday, when the company will change its name to InterActiveCorp and start trading as IACI on the Nasdaq.

We're of mixed feelings about this one. At this flag-waving moment in American history -- much of it thoughtful, some of it less so -- we think it takes guts to take the USA out of a company name. And Diller, we probably don't have to tell you, has guts.

But InterActiveCorp? Is that the worst-possible name that USA could have chosen? Or just a close runner-up? Yes, we understand that Diller might want a name that reflects USA's business strategy, which is "to be the world's largest and most profitable interactive commerce company by pursuing a multibrand strategy," according to Thursday's press release. But InterActiveCorp? It's so generic. It's like one of those names lawyers make up when they need a shell corporation for a complicated acquisition. It sounds like the name of the villainous company in RoboCop.

Barry's Blooper
What's in a name?

And speaking of RoboCop, aren't those interior capitals so, like, five minutes ago? Who advised USA on this move? PricewaterhouseCoopers?

Think you can come up with a better name? Of course you can. If you've got a candidate, email it in to the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab, in care of gmannes@thestreet.com . The winner, should we choose to name one, will receive the TheStreet.com hat in our lower right-hand desk drawer. Employees of InterActiveCorp are welcome to participate. Except for Barry Diller: You've already lost.

4. Kind Of Makes Us Want to Run Out and Buy Amex Magazine

Speaking of regrettable name changes, the New Zealand Stock Exchange changed its name last month. The new name is the Somewhere Off the Coast of Australia Stock Exchange.

No, not really. We just said that to irritate our New Zealand readers and confirm for them how little U.S. citizens know about the world around them.

The new name is actually New Zealand Exchange Limited, or NZX for short. Go to their Web site, www.nzx.com , to see for yourself.

Now that probably doesn't strike you as such a terrible name. But, as the New Zealand news media has had great fun pointing out, the NZX name was already spoken for. By a New Zealand porn magazine.

Oh, the outrage. "The stock exchange can't just barge on in and poach my magazine's name," pornographer Steve Crow told New Zealand's Sunday News . It's unclear if he will sue over the exchange's latest incantation.

We at the lab realize that finding a connection between sex and money isn't exactly groundbreaking. But rarely is it as formal as it is in New Zealand.

5. Breaking an Engagement

A moment of silence, please, for Engage, the onetime highflying Internet stock -- gosh, we get nostalgic every time we write that phrase -- that filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday.

Engage, which in its latest incantation sells software for managing advertising campaigns, expects to sell all of its assets to a privately held company Scene7 for about $2 million of cash and debt assumption.

Wow. This was a company that, back in early 2000, was a $4 billion stock -- $4 billion! And now someone's buying it for $1.2 million down.

Not only that, but this was a company that used to scare people. Engage was going to assemble a massive database about the behavior and interests of Internet users -- one that was going to let marketers know stuff like whether a visitor to a Web site had young daughters in his household, or maybe recently purchased a car. Business, you might guess, didn't turn out as planned.

Yes, we know this sad tale has been told hundreds of times about hundreds of companies on the back nine of the Internet stock bubble. But we never grow tired of this stuff. That's why we work at the lab.