The Name of the Year, 2009: pt. 1
You can paint a portrait of a year in names. That truth came through loud and clear in the hundreds of thoughtful reader nominations for the Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year. From Bernie and Neda to Jackson and Octomom, you all made compelling cases for the names that shaped, and were shaped by, 2009.
To do the names justice, I'm splitting this year's announcement into three parts. The two runners up and the Name of the Year made the grade through their timeliness, resonance, and "naminess" -- how essential the name itself was to the cultural story. And as always, I was guided by reader nominations, seconds and comments. Thanks, everybody.
Second runner up: Falcon
On October 15, 2009, officials in Colorado scrambled to respond to a bizarre emergency. A Fort Collins family had accidentally released a homemade weather balloon, and their six-year-old son Falcon was believed to be inside. After frantic hours in which National Guard helicopters tracked the balloon and the Denver International Airport was shut down, young Falcon Heene was found safe at home. Eventually, the entire episode was revealed to be a hoax. Falcon's parents had met in acting school, had appeared on a reality tv series, and were eagerly shopping their own reality tv concept without success. They dreamed up the balloon stunt in hopes that the publicity would help get their family back on the air.
This story brought together two powerful trends, highlighting an underlying theme they have in common. 2009 was the year that, in the words of one BabyNameWizard.com reader, "exploded the myth of reality TV." As reality shows pushed the limits of celebrity-seeking and self-revelation, viewers began to squirm. In particular, stories like the "balloon boy" and the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin raised questions about putting children's lives in front of the camera.
Meanwhile, American parents were working harder and harder to choose eye-catching names to make their children stand out. The traditional classics were plummeting in popularity, while names like Cannon, Messiah and Phoenix were soaring. Surely it's no coincidence that parents so desperate for attention that they'd coach their six-year-old to carry out a media hoax were also parents who chose to name him Falcon? As another reader wrote, "We have such an obsession with fame and the actions of one family have us thinking about at what cost."