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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 […]

Noms de Scam, Coming to a Phone Near You

August 29, 2019 LauraWattenberg 3 min read No Comments

Rachel from Cardholder Services is a legend. Her robocalled promises to lower credit card interest rates have kept enforcement agencies busy for years. The Federal Trade Commission even has an official Rachel FAQ. But one question it doesn’t answer. Why is she named Rachel? The name wasn’t just a random […]

What Does a Neural Network Think of Your Name?

August 21, 2019 LauraWattenberg 4 min read 4 Comments

What if you could tap into society’s psyche and see how names frame our collective mental narratives? Now, perhaps you can. An artificial intelligence engine paves the way. Talktotransformer.com lets any user harness the power of a neural network system trained to write text. Just enter the beginning of a […]

Confessions of a Too-Good Email Address

July 18, 2019 Namerology 3 min read 4 Comments

My Hungarian Fishing License has been processed. I should arrive 15 minutes before my scheduled doctor’s appointment in Bogotá. My flight to São Paulo is ready for online check-in. Not to brag, but I have a pretty great email address. I was on Gmail early and managed to grab a […]

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