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5 Names that Mattered in 2020

December 22, 2020 LauraWattenberg 6 min read 1 Comment

The pace of news was set to double-time in 2020, and name news was no exception. Names made headlines as they were chosen, abandoned, celebrated, mocked, debated and redefined. These five names made their mark on a year like no other. COVIDThe many names given to the virus that paralyzed […]

Protester holding sign: "BREONNA'S LIFE MATTERED"

Breonna is the 2020 Name of the Year

December 17, 2020 LauraWattenberg 5 min read 3 Comments

The symbolic power of names was front and center in 2020. Physicians and politicians wrangled with the implications of different names for the virus that brought society to its knees. Brands with “nostalgic” slave names like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were finally retired. And throughout, a rallying cry reminded […]

Image of unisex symbol + question mark

The Unisex Name Myth

October 8, 2020 LauraWattenberg 6 min read 11 Comments

Is there a unisex style of baby names? Names that parents consistently choose without regard to gender, that are perceived in a gender-neutral way as a child goes through life? We usually take the idea for granted. You can find thousands of lists of unisex name ideas, including one in […]

Photo of storm center with huge LAURA label

On Being the Eye of the Storm

August 25, 2020 LauraWattenberg 1 min read 6 Comments

Hurricanes have human names, and so I write about them. Over the past 15 years I’ve written about various storms and the baby name trends that followed. But now, for the first time, I truly understand the emotional impact of sharing a name with a storm. Hurricane Laura—Hurricane Me—is on […]

Photos of Karen Bass, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Val Demings and Kamala Harris

The Vice-Presidential Name Field, 2020

August 8, 2020 LauraWattenberg 4 min read 4 Comments

As Joe Biden has vetted prospective VP candidates, the leading names have been analyzed and dissected in the media in every imaginable way. Every way but one, that is: the names themselves. Because while the nominee is expected to be ground-breaking—likely the first woman of color on a major ticket—the […]

Photo of woman in foggy silhouette

Who Is Karen Now?

June 29, 2020 LauraWattenberg 3 min read 4 Comments

Three years ago, I wrote that the Karen had become the go-to name for an “everywoman” in comedy. Six months ago, I wrote that Karen had evolved into a derogatory term for entitled white, middle-aged women who insist on talking to the manager. Three weeks ago, I wrote that the […]

Vintage print ad showing "mammy" figure with pancakes, and a description of "old-time plantation flavor"

Brand Curse: The Name Jemima in America

June 19, 2020 LauraWattenberg 6 min read 10 Comments

This week the Aunt Jemima pancake brand name was “retired,” bringing an end to a 131-year advertising minstrel show. The brand’s current owner, Quaker, finally bowed to the reality that no cosmetic makeover could rehabilitate a character, and business, built on a romanticized fantasy of owning human beings as property. […]

The 2019 Name of the Year is Karen

December 17, 2019 LauraWattenberg 6 min read 15 Comments

How a quintessential baby boomer name became a slur aimed at Generation X In 2019, the generation gap came charging back. We’d already seen warning signs of its approach in the form of older people bad-mouthing millennials, but the 2019 version was no longer as simple as old vs. young. […]

The Tradition-Shattering Names of Rural White America

November 6, 2019 LauraWattenberg 4 min read 9 Comments

It has become a familiar part of America’s modern political narrative. The white, small-town experience is portrayed as the most traditional American experience. Some elevate it as an ideal, the model for returning the nation’s culture to an earlier, prouder time. Others see it as just one element of a […]

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