The name that went viral. The name that everybody argued about. The name that became a symbol. The name that you suddenly kept hearing, everywhere. What was the Name of the Year for 2019?
The Name of the Year is a time capsule in name form. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a baby name, or even a human name. (Just ask past honoree Boaty McBoatface.) But it takes the form of a human name or nickname, and illustrates the way that name reflect and even shape the culture around them.
Nominations for the Namerology Name of the Year take place right here. What name in the news did you find yourself talking about? What did people start calling each other this year, and why? Please share your ideas in the comments section below, and feel free to second others’ nominations and make the case for your favorites. (Namerology registration is free, but if you prefer you can also tweet nominations to @namerologytalk or comment on the Namerology Facebook page.)
As you let your mind run over names you’ve noted during the year, here are some points to consider:
– How central is the name to the story?
– How has the name changed or emerged in 2019?
– How does the name story connect to broader trends, in names or in the world?
Let the name talk begin!
I have been trying to think of name-related stories for 2019, and the best I can come up with is the huge conflict over the name Macedonia. The Republic of Macedonia changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia because of conflicts with Greece about appropriation of the name. I don’t think this is real NOTY material, but it was a naming-related story.
There’s also baby Archie, born to Meghan and Harry. Meghan was one of the (the?) fastest-rising name of 2018 and it wouldn’t surprise me if Archie jumped in 2019. This would be interesting since it could indicate a change in American naming style toward the less formal bestowing of nicknames that the British have embraced.
The last thing I thought of was Thanos, the uber villain in Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame movie. When so much of the news in 2019 felt semi apocalyptic (climate change, ongoing wars in Syria and Afghanistan, civil unrest in Venezuela, Chile, Nicaragua, and Hong Kong, and populist leaders taking the reins across the globe), a name that evokes the Greek god of death seems appropriate.
This was the year of the three-letter female monogram, and of one monogram in particular: AOC. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, entered the House of Representatives in January and immediately began making waves (and headlines) with her proposal for a Green New Deal and her sharp, smart social-media barbs. We’ve had three-letter-monogrammed male politicians, notably FDR and JFK, but AOC represents something new. (Of course, we can’t overlook the influence of that octogenarian trendsetter RBG!)
Here’s another vote for AOC! It seems significant that the monogram *immediately* took off once it was introduced, and also seems equally used by the congresswoman’s allies and adversaries.
I don’t think the triple-monogram is really a thing in modern American politics, and the exceptions proves the rule: the octogenarian RGB, for one, the exceedingly un-hip HRC and… Jeb! (The latter two are themselves kind of throwbacks to an earlier, seemingly obsolete mode of dynastic American politics.)
Personally I can’t stand the AOC initialism – as someone who gets asked “uh, can I just call you Q??” once a week, it just reminds me of the double standard where names like “Klobuchar” and “Buttigieg” are on every pundit’s lips, but god forbid anyone spend two seconds learning to pronounce Spanish. There is of course a practical reason to shorten her name given how long it is – but we’d be remiss if we pretended there was no racial subtext here.
I speak Spanish, but a 10-syllable name is just too bloody long for regular use. I have two middle names and my full name is still shorter than that. For the vast majority of people, I highly doubt racism comes into play at all.
Boomer, as in “Ok, Boomer” epitomizes a popular baby name style (-er, occupation names), yet this particular name is not in the news due to babies being given the moniker but for its role as a signifier of a generation whose names and politics are being challenged by younger generations. Follow up discussions about “ok, Boomer” reveal that some baby boomers see it as a slur, despite the fact that the word is not newly applied to this group, but rather the context of dismissive, “impolite” phrasing is. It highlights how with any name, the intention of the person selecting and applying the name may not match the perception and reception of that name by the person on whom it’s bestowed or the wider public generally. The fact that this name emphasizes the potential of names, even the most familiar, to fuel miscommunication, especially across generations, makes it my vote for name of the year– it encapsulates so many of our political and social challenges.
Put me down for Boomer, too.
The “Ok, Boomer” story also fits in with the concept of call-out or cancel culture. That definitely feels very 2019.
This is a good one, definitely. Shifting the word “Boomer” from someTHING someone is to WHO someone is….turned it into a name and stirred up a whole bunch of pots.
I second Archie Harrison, though I suppose I’m coming from a UK perspective. It took everyone by surprise. Archie, in the UK, is a popular, boy-next-door choice, a name you’d hear shouted in the supermarket. Harrison has a similar vibe here, but the “Harry’s son” dimension is interesting because it actually invokes the rather royal notion of lineage, albeit in an unexpected way. Most people either predicted three classic names in the style of the Cambridge children, or something with a bit of an American twist, a bit like the half-Canadian children of Peter and Autumn Philips (Savannah and…?). Harry and Meghan are known for being the royals who want to do things differently, so it is interesting that they chose a name that sounds like any ordinary young schoolboy in England… the son of a soldier and his wife, not of a prince and an American actress. Archie also has no courtesy title. So they want to be (seen as?) different to the traditional royals, but the same as ordinary people. In a world where the surest assumptions can no longer be counted on and in which being a public figure has never had so many downsides, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised.
If you’re going w/ an individual new to the international stage this year, you could choose Greta (over AOC, who was popular already last year). According to Wiki, one of her three middle names is Tintin!
But an even bigger deal has been the unrest in Hong Kong. I’d love a way to represent that as a name. Carrie Lam is the only name that sticks out tho, and she represents the oppressor.
tp-b, keep in mind that this is a name of the year nomination, not a person of the year (or news story of the year, or any other method of encapsulating an entire year in a couple of words). Would Greta’s story be any different if she had been named Emily? If not, i.e. if her name is not central to the narrative, then it’s not really NotY fodder.
I sort of feel like the biggest name qua name story of the year was Khaleesi/Daenerys. I haven’t read or watched the series, but when that character took a really dark turn at the end of the TV series it was suddenly all over the place since folks had been naming their daughters after a character who was perceived (I gather) as a positive role model but who had suddenly become more of a cautionary tale.
I’m not sure how it connects to broader themes of the year, but I would love to hear Laura’s take on it. The story does provide a pretty traditional moral about not counting chickens before they hatch and heroes with feet of clay, along with a freudenschadean opportunity for NEs to say “I told you so” after warning repeatedly that naming for living people/characters can be dangerous since we don’t yet know how they will be judged by history. Perhaps it also fits with a sort of existential despair and lack of faith in central leadership that seems to be permeating a lot of public discourse nowadays.
Ooh, that’s a great point. Shades of what happened to “Atticus” when Go Set a Watchman came out!
Poor Karen, she might deserve name of the year. Is this too similar to Becky with the good hair? But no, Karen, though usually white and blonde, is definitely much older and unpleasant in a different way. She’ll call the manager for taking too long to get her drink and give you passive-aggressive compliments and tell you exactly how to do something that you’ve done a thousand times and she’s never done once.
After reading the extended Karen takedown in today’s New York Times, I’m going for Karen.
I read that column, too, and thought of this nomination. I have to ask—did people here *get* her extended metaphor? It didn’t make any sense to me. I’m a bit younger than the author (but still Gen X) and grew up, I gather, in a much poorer and less white community, but still I’ve known a lot of middle- and upper-middle-class white women in that demographic and just don’t see the characters she described as pervasive archetypes. I certainly wouldn’t have pegged them to the names she chose (Sarah, Emily, and Alexandra, in addition to Karen) which all seemed somewhat out-of-step for my cohort.
[I also note that while the Karen trope is seeing more airplay this year, Laura was two years ahead of the curve in recognizing Karen’s pop-culture punchline potential: http://www.babynamewizard.com/archives/2017/7/that-name-sure-sounds-funny.%5D
I also didn’t quite relate to the names, but I partially attributed it to the fact that I’m more in the ‘Xiennial’ microgeneration. Though a lot of it did feel like she was using the names of people she knew to generalize her past in a way that didn’t quite come off as universal as intended. The way she described Karens also seemed more personal than general – it actually reminded me of the stereotypical Ashleys of my generation, but maybe proto-Karens still in high school and college acted similarly.
I also had been hearing Karen for a while, and so I wasn’t sure if it would be a ‘this year’ name. Though the fact that even a Tropical Storm named Karen got articles written about the memes it generated (this one is pretty good, and goes into the history of Karen becoming a meme: https://www.wired.com/story/tropical-storm-karen-meme/) does seem to indicate an increase in usage.
I’m totally baffled by that article, too. I’m three years younger than the author, so even more Gen X than she is, but I never had a single classmate named Karen. Or Alexandra. There might’ve been a Sarah at some point, but I honestly can’t remember. Can someone translate that article into Jennifer, Michelle, and Lisa? Or something?
(Also, the two Karens I know as an adult are both lovely people, so the whole Karen-bashing meme leaves me scratching my head.)
Huh! That’s very interesting. Sarah, Emily, and Alexandra read very Xennial to me; Karen turns it into “one of these things is not like the other.” It especially doesn’t track for me that Karens’ moms are Lindas, because for me, Karen and Linda are very nearly the same name. I’m solidly millennial — most of my friends’ parents were boomers; Gen-Xers were our cool older cousins — and both are archetypal “mom” names to me
I agree, Lucinda Jane—I’m an Xennial, and Sarah, Emily and Alexandra all sound like my peers, but Karen is a generation older.
Totally agree. I have aunts named Lori, Karen and Lynda, all born between 1958-1965. Karen and Linda seem like sister names to me, not daughter and mom!
Another thing about the Karen meme I find interesting is that often it’s less about age than it is about haircut and (perceived?) attitude. A woman in her 30s with “the haircut” is just as easily a Karen as one in the right age group to have been named Karen.
There also exists the phenomenon of a “mega Karen” (particularly on Reddit, where the Karen meme seems particularly popular). The taller the hair, the more Mega the Karen, while still being approximately chin length in front.
Additionally, even a regular bob haircut can be a Karen, particularly if there are blonde highlights, if the person wearing it asks for a manager.
I’ve never submitted an original nomination before, but this year, I would like to tentatively nominate Barron. It’s a late-breaking story, but I think that Pamela Karlan’s pun in her impeachment testimony and the totally disproportionate, manufactured outrage it produced is very emblematic of the current state of partisan division and rancor in this country and elsewhere in the world. And as much as I dislike it, there’s no question that That Man and his efforts to make his family and cronies into a new American aristocracy have dominated this year’s discourse. I think that aristocratic wannabe Barron is pretty representative of that, and the new-Gilded-Age state of our society in general (the phrase “robber baron” was used as a derogatory term for unscrupulous industrialists starting in the 19th century), along with the Warren/Sanders/AOC/etc.-style progressive movement that has arisen to combat it.
OK, one more nomination: “Anonymous” or “unnamed” as in the unnamed Trump-Ukraine* whistle-blower. Trump’s defenders continue to harp on naming this individual, while Democrats (and the free press and career government officials and numerous federal laws) insist that the name be protected. The story here is about the power of a name, the right to anonymity (or not), how hard it is to really keep a secret in the internet era (did Deep Throat have this much trouble staying anonymous?), and of course the way that a seemingly straightforward issue can be seen in completely different ways depending on one’s political perspective.
*Incidentally, if we had a catchy, widely-agreed name for this particular to-do (à la Watergate or Teapot Dome) that would probably qualify as NoTY. Which kind of makes “unnamed” even more emblematic of the whole mess.