Nominations for Name of the Year

Cleve Evans cleveland.evans at BELLEVUE.EDU
Wed Jan 5 12:48:47 UTC 2011

Dear ADS Listserv,

Here are the nominations for Names of the Year that will be voted on by the American Name Society in Pittsburgh:

Nominations for Names of the Year 2010

Fictional Names:

Mother Slaughter (character from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book).  The nominator says: Mother Slaughter was dead and her headstone was so worn that the name “SLAUGHTER” became “LAUGH.”  This name is ironic at a number of different levels. Here is a quote from The Graveyard Book :
•          Mother Slaughter was “a tiny old thing, in the huge bonnet and cape that she had worn in life and been buried wearing” (22).
•          “So Bod picked the red and yellow nasturtiums, and he carried them over to Mother Slaughter’s Headstone, so cracked and worn and weathered that all it said now was…
•          LAUGH” (297).

Quinn (Fabray) and Finn (Hudson): High school student characters on the popular television series “Glee”. They are notable as names because of the “cute” factor of having a dating couple with rhyming first names (and this fits psychological research showing people are more likely to be attracted to those with similar names.) These are also names which have been increasing as baby names. Finn, especially, is much more common for infants than high-schoolers. Quinn is notable as a formerly male name which has turned mostly female, and it has shown a recent sharp increase in use as an example of the “Hollywood feedback loop” effect.

Personal Names:

Bristol: The nominator says:  “As a given name, Bristol was unknown until the daughter of then-vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was thrust into the spotlight as an unwed teenage mother in 2008. Despite what many perceived as a negative reason for her fame, the American public was apparently able to overlook it, as the name jumped to a rank of 666 on the girls' Social Security list in 2009 from zero the year before.
Bristol Palin's move from the political stage in 2008 to the pop-cultural one in 2009, as she made public appearances and filmed television commercials advocating sexual abstinence, probably contributed to the rise in popularity of her first name. Even though she made front-page news because of a pregnancy, it is hard to imagine her name developing any sort of staying power had she not chosen to work in media and advocacy afterward. (I can only imagine that her much greater fame as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" will push the name Bristol even higher on the 2010 chart.)
This is an example of a specific regional place name, used by a single set of parents familiar with that place, gaining widespread usage among parents who in all likelihood have no idea what or where Bristol Bay is.
I find the rise in the name Bristol remarkable because it doesn't fit the traits of many popular female baby names today. It does not evoke traditional femininity like Ava, Emma, Emily and Madelyn do. It is not a typical surname like Madison or Taylor. It has no biblical origin as Hannah, Abigail and Sarah do. Most popular girls' names today end in a vowel or the letter "n"; this ends in "l." In other words, it does not fit into the common category of a name aligned with the public's current taste that simply needed a celebrity boost to vaunt it to trendiness. In this way, it stands out. The one connection with a trend I can come up with is that it rhymes with a name popular in the last generation, the one that is naming its own babies now: Crystal.

Buster Posey:  The nominator says: “catcher for the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants. I just love the way his name combines butch and femme … kinda like San Francisco itself.”

The Situation and Snooki:  nicknames of the “stars” of the “reality” TV show Jersey Shore. Some commentators believe these unusual names are part of the reason for this show’s success.

Paul the Octopus (2008?-2010): the score-predicting cephalopod. Also known as Pupo Paul.

Lady Gaga: Stage name of the popular singer whose given name is Stefani Germanotta. As with The Situation and Snooki, the very oddity and memorability of the stage name has contributed to her success.

Place Names:

Eyafjallajökul: the Icelandic volcano whose name no one could pronounce or spell, but which caused havoc throughout Europe in April and May. In the USA there was almost as much commentary about the name itself as the disruption the volcano caused in Europe.

Cité Soleil: the Haitian slum that became a metaphor for Haiti’s lamentable post-“seism” recovery and, later, for the cholera epidemic.

Copiapó: the town adjacent to the Chilean mine where 33 men were trapped for more than six weeks.

Deepwater Horizon: (2 nominators) Name of the offshore oil drilling rig which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico during April 2010, causing one of the worst oil spill disasters in history.

Trade Names:

WikiLeaks: (4 nominators): One nominator says: “Launched in 2006 but became famous/notorious in 2010 for its publication of Iraq war logs and diplomatic cablegrams. The name is interesting, because the site is not a true wiki (collaborative, user-editable website). Instead, “wiki” here is closer to the original Hawaiian meaning of “fast.”
Another nominator says:  “The second-most-famous Web site to begin with "Wiki," the distributor of thousands of purloined documents from government and industry, and the group behind a renewed debate on secrecy, freedom of speech, the Internet, and national security”

Tea Party: (3 nominators). One nominator says: “for being one of the most-talked-about political phenomena in the United States during 2010. “
Another nominator says: “This is interesting as a name because of its historical associations which have helped to energize the movement, as well as for the controversy over the term “teabagging”.

BP:  The nominator says “Do I really need to explain?” See Deepwater Horizon above.

Old Spice: The nominator says “the 75-year-old men’s-toiletries brand that enjoyed a spectacular revival this year thanks to a series of cleverly crafted TV/online ads. “

The American Dialect Society -

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