The 2011 Name of the Year

Dec 15th 2011

We've counted down runners-up number one and number 2, and now it's time for the official Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year. But with a little twist.

This year, I'm making the NOTY announcement over at Slate.com. Go ahead and read the selection at Slate, and let the arguments begin!

With thanks for a great year in names,

Laura

FOLLOWUP -- Here's an alternate, expanded version of the piece that appears at Slate, introducing (and making the case for) the Name of the Year.

 

And the 2011 Name of the Year is:

Siri.

Siri is a Nordic girl’s name, a pet form of Sigrid. In Scandinavia it’s familiar as both a nickname and given name, common among babies and grown women alike. Think of it as a Nordic counterpart to our name Annie.

In the English-speaking world, though, the name Siri used to be virtually unknown. That all changed in 2011, but with a twist. English speakers now know the name Siri, but they don’t think of it as human…quite.

Siri is the name of an artificial intelligence system built into the latest version of the Apple iPhone. A virtual personal assistant, Siri is designed to help you find information relevant to your personal needs and navigate life's daily tasks. That’s what Siri does, but the key is how: via spoken conversation. Siri’s interaction, like its -- sorry, like “her” name, blurs the line between the human and the computer-generated. And that makes Siri the 2011 Name of the Year.

The annual honoree is a one-name time capsule, showing us how names are woven into the fabric of society, connecting to and reflecting everything that goes on in our culture. Past Names of the Year include names of people real (Barack), fictional (Renesmee), conceptual (Joe, as in Joe Six-pack and Joe the Plumber), and self-invented (The Situation.) This year’s biggest name stories sat at the intersection of the real and the virtual. The NOTY runner-up was a real-life name trapped in virtual limbo: Mark Zuckerberg, the name of an Indiana attorney who was kicked off Facebook for the sin of having the same name as Facebook’s founder.

Siri puts a new spin on the human/virtual name showdown. She’s virtual, but her name is human. 

The computer with a voice and attitude but no face was a familiar figure in late 20th-century entertainment. Think of the arch voice of KITT, the silicon brain of a Pontiac Trans Am in the tv series Knight Rider; Joshua, the troubled NORAD computer in the film War Games; and most famously, HAL of 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose eerie calm suggested that smart computers might just be a little too smart for our own good, or might render our own petty intelligence obsolete.

It's no coincidence that each of those computers was named like a character, not a machine. Yes, KITT and HAL were theoretically acronyms, but they sounded like names and were used as such. 

When you converse with something, you want to call it by a name. Have you noticed how many drivers give names to their GPS devices? Even a one-way voice conversation seems to demand a name. And consider how the year's other talking artificial intelligence, IBM's Jeopardy champion, was given the human name Watson. Quite a naming contrast with IBM's last headline-grabbing game player, the chess engine Deep Blue.

Using a human-style name reflects your relationship with the thing being named, and shapes it, too. Indoor pets, for instance, tend to be given more human names than outdoor animals. Assigning a name to a car or other possession is both a sign of growing affection and a spur to further bonding. Around my house, I've found that it's nearly impossible to throw out any object that my kids have named. Names give objects emotional life.

A human name is thus a key ingredient in the user experience of Siri. You say "the iPhone" and "my iPhone," but not "the Siri." It, she, is simply Siri. The name makes the act of conversing with a metal slab feel natural. It also encourages you to rely on her, even to form an emotional attachment which is the most powerful kind of consumer loyalty.

The way Siri’s name humanizes technology heralds a new era of name convergence. I've written elsewhere that today's parents approach baby naming a lot like product branding. In the past, names were typically chosen based on personal, private-facing meanings, like honoring a grandparent. Today, parents increasingly focus on public-facing impact. We’ve even seen brand names and baby names pop up together, like the Sienna minivan and baby Siennas, as parents look for the same kind of “oomph” that branders do. They’re trying to launch their kids into life's competitive marketplace with the best possible positioning. 

The 2010 Name of the Year, "The Situation," took this naming-as-personal-branding ethic to its ridiculous extreme. But the name/brand intersection that Siri represents comes from the opposite direction. As companies introduce technologies that function like people, they suddenly find themselves in my naming world. They have to consider the complex web of cultural meanings that each name carries. They have to ask, "what kind of person are we creating, and what name represents that?"

Let's take a closer look at the choice of the name Siri. It has been widely reported that the name is a riff on SRI International, the California R&D lab where the technology was first developed. According to the people behind Siri, though, that's not the real story. Siri's founding team of executives and investors approached the naming process by turning to baby name books. There was no question that they wanted a human-style name. In fact, the project's original code name was, irresistibly, HAL.

The name Siri was proposed by the project director, Danish telecom executive Dag Kittlaus. Where did the idea come from? Simple. Siri--remember,  it’s a popular name in Scandinavia-- was the girl's name Kittlaus and his wife had picked out for their first child. They ended up having a boy, so the name was kept in reserve until the proud papa finally got the chance to confer it on a virtual daughter. Sure, the letters S-R-I might have been a plus, but Siri was being launched as a separate company. Kittlaus and his team were playing to an audience of investors and consumers, not to the research lab. What mattered was the name.

And the name hit its mark dead-center. To English speakers, Siri comes across as classic Danish design: clean, spare, elegant in its simplicity. It feels namelike but isn't overly familiar or tied to any time period. It's approachable but not in-your-face. It's cool.

The name was cool enough, in fact, that when Apple bought Siri, it kept the name. That's no small thing for a company that has established itself as the trendsetter of tech cool, and that leans toward functional product names like iPhone and MacBook. The days of Apple choosing cute names like Newton and Macintosh went out with their old cheerful rainbow logo. But Steve Jobs knew a good name when he heard it, and Siri remained Siri.

To fully appreciate how good the name choice is, compare Siri to a legendary fiasco of a human-named software product, Microsoft Bob. Bob, introduced in 1995, was an alternate interface that attempted to make the intimidating world of computing a little friendlier. No more scary “directories” of “files.” Instead, Bob presented your computer as a house, with perky cartoon characters to help you find your way. Bob's logo was written BOB, with a bespectacled smiley face for an “O.” And Bob’s name revealed the product’s basic conceptual flaw. The aggressively disarming everyman pose was like Microsoft patting you on the head: "There there, helpless little user, don't you fret! Uncle Bob is here to take care of you." Bob was, in a word, patronizing.

The name Siri, in contrast, suggests the effortless Nordic cool of an Absolut Vodka bottle. It says that technology is a stylish accessory, and you, as its owner, are stylishly confident. The name encapsulates the movement of technology from geek to chic that was the defining contribution of Steve Jobs’ last decade at Apple. (That in itself makes Siri an apt name of the year for 2011, in memoriam.)

Technologically, Siri is the vanguard of a wave of systems that will try to claim increasingly human roles in our lives. Namewise, expect to be on a first-name basis with more of your electronics soon. The results of that naming shift may prove to be more powerful and unpredictable than companies, or consumers, expect.

A human name packs a lot of nuance into a few short letters. It’s more like a watercolor portrait than like Bob’s yellow smiley face. Opening up a name bridge between inanimate objects and human emotions builds connections, but it also opens you to human responses from jealousy to prejudice to grief.

Just as it’s hard to throw out a toy your children have named, might it be hard to throw out, or discontinue, a human-named product? Can a new version of Siri be called Siri3000 or SiriPro without imperiling her name-driven bonds? (Siri Jr., perhaps?) Will companies come under pressure to “hire” a diverse virtual name lineup, or spark anger by confirming name stereotypes? As a user, will you feel unfaithful switching virtual partners, and perhaps find yourself calling your new techno-assistant by the old assistant’s name? And what if a person who shares the virtual intelligence’s name runs for president…or commits a shocking crime?

Welcome to the world of personal names, technologists. You’re not in Compuland anymore.

 

Comments

1
By rossignol (not verified)
December 15, 2011 6:44 PM

Sigh! I have always dearly loved that name. It's sounds terrible with our last and we had boys anyway, but I guess I should be glad we dodged the bullet.

2
December 15, 2011 8:35 PM

Way totally awesome Laura! I totally agree with this choice and with the synopsis as a whole. This year was all about technology and its merging with the human beings of the world.

And for a future topic, toys aren't quite technology but still they need names to be given to them in order for us to relate. Check out the new LEGO toys here:
http://thebrickblogger.com/2011/11/2012-lego-sets-lego-friends-girls/

How do you feel about the choices they made for the names?

3
December 15, 2011 9:33 PM

Congratulations on posting NOTY on Slate! What a great post--well argued as usual.

And around this house, we named our garage door Steve. Steve does not like cold weather and when winter rolls around (fortunately a short season here in NC), the kids and I yell at Steve to behave himself and close remotely so that I don't have to leave the car to close him manually.

4
December 15, 2011 9:37 PM

Hmm, zoerhenne, I'm not sure about some of those names. Andrea and Stephanie? Really? And Olivia's MOM is Anna? That seems off. It should be her sister.

Aside from that, I have some real issues with the whole concept of these toys, but that's just me...

6
By Beth the original (not verified)
December 16, 2011 12:42 AM

Squeeeee! I was the first one to nominate Siri! I am so thrilled because I have never, ever been able to come up with a Name of the Year. It's like the time I won this "Guess the Mystery Ingredient in This Cocktail" contest as someone who drinks maybe a cocktail a year, with a random trendy ingredient (elderflower essence, if anyone cares).

7
By Beth the original (not verified)
December 16, 2011 12:52 AM

PS: Elizabeth T, it's not just you. I would never, ever buy those things for my daughter (you can be smart or an animal lover, but you have to grow up to be a beautician, a socialite, or a singer?). And I don't know an Andrea or Stephanie under 40.

8
By Guest2 (not verified)
December 16, 2011 2:31 AM

I like the names of the LEGO toys. A nice mix of popular and unpopular names, just like any group of friends. I know a 7 year old named Andrea who would love seeing that a toy has her name. It gets tiresome to see the same names over and over.

9
December 16, 2011 8:37 AM

Well done Beth! and yes I was curious about the ingredient in your story ;)

Guest2-I always liked seeing my name on toys, stickers, pencils, etc. It's Stacey and Barbie had a doll of this name. I think it was her mom at the time of my growing up. There was also the Babysitters Club books but I was past them by then. I think the names are very trendy except for Stephanie and Andrea.

10
December 16, 2011 10:47 AM

Somehow I knew this one would make NOTY even though Siri has only been around for a few months.

Now for a very serious question: What did you name your GPS?

I don't have one because I like getting lost the old fashioned way, but my mom has a GPS named Natasha who speaks Russian.

11
By Birgitte (not verified)
December 16, 2011 11:38 AM

Sorry, but that was LAME. Most people don't even know what Siri is and then it's NOTY? NOTY is supposed to have an impact on the year, isn't it? I am disappointed for the first time, Laura.

In other news, I am pregnant!!! I get to quarrel with hubby about names again!! Oh, wait...

12
December 16, 2011 12:13 PM

I'm disappointed too. I spend all year reading name blogs - some I read every day. I also read articles on names online. I've never heard of Siri as a name or in relation to technology until I read the comments nominating the name here.

Congratulations Birgitte!

13
By Juliana (not verified)
December 16, 2011 12:23 PM

I'm disappointed too. I was really rooting for Anonymous.

14
December 16, 2011 2:33 PM

zoerhenne - my name is Stacey also, when I was maybe 4, Mattel gave Barbie a new little sister named Stacie, and I had probably 4 or 5 different versions of her, she was my favourite and I read BSC obsessively mainly because there was a character named Stacey (with an E as I would have told everyone back then) she was a great character, she was a native New Yorker, a gifted Mathlete and treasurer of the Baby-Sitters Club, the most well-dressed girl at Stoneybrook Middle School, and she had diabetes. But other than those two things I had a really hard time finding my name in/on anything, it was very exciting when I did find something. I never in a million years would have thought your name was Stacey for no reason other than, I never met other Staceys.

Oh, I forgot this earlier but Malibu Stacy the Barbie-esque doll on the Simpsons and Stacy Kiebler from WWE Divas, are the other Stacys from my childhood.

15
By TKB
December 16, 2011 1:03 PM

I think it makes perfect sense that people who read primarily baby blogs wouldn't necessarily know about Siri. People who read baby name blogs or celebrity gossip all know Pippa, but I'd venture the impact outside of baby names is very slim. Anyone who reads about technology knows about Siri. (And Mark Zuckerburg.) And frankly, the number of people invested in technology is much bigger than people who are passionate name enthusiasts.

After all, the previous NOTY candidates weren't really talked about on typical baby name blogs, either. No one was advocating that people name their infants Joe, or, god forbid, the Situation. Aren't names that impact things that AREN'T just baby names bigger than names in general? (As much as I love names!)

Congrats to Laura for your exposure in Slate, and grats to Birgitte on the baby on the way!

16
December 16, 2011 1:07 PM

I am also a wee bit disappointed about Siri being NOTY but I understand why it is and Laura provided excellent reasoning and analysis which was enjoyable to read. I'm not really a fan of Siri (the product), after about 30 minutes of asking her silly questions and giggling at her replies, I've not used her at all. What she represents as Laura laid out in her article in relation to how we name inanimate objects now is I think incredibly relevant.

On another note though, I like the idea of Siri because she takes us one step closer to being in the world of STAR TREK. Except in Star Trek she is simply known as "Computer" - which is interesting in itself, as I think the program being called "Computer" works really well in the Star Trek universe - but that clearly wasn't a viable option for the makers of Siri.

17
By mk
December 16, 2011 1:30 PM

Eh, I'm disappointed with the choice as well. I know people with the technology, but no one has talked about it as Siri. I don't see naming an inanimate object as a new trend, either. I just don't think it has had much of a general impact yet. At least with Pippa and Mark Zuckerburg, you have people who recognize them even if they didn't follow the wedding/ facebook/name blogs.

I do agree with liking the names for the LEGO friends. Not every kid has a popular/trendy name. The friends themselves I'm not sure about. The lab is cool, but why not just call her "the scientist." And why is that one friend called "the beautician"? She looks more like a designer. That blog post is odd.

18
December 16, 2011 1:34 PM

Essy01-Hugs to you and yeah for all the Stacey's in the world. I was able to find stickers, pencils, and I even own a key chain but I think I found that when I was older. While in Jr High School I was always referred to "With an E" as opposed to using the LN initial. Then when I was in college (studying Elem Ed) there were 5 of us all WITH AN E in my Childrens Lit class. It was wild to still be called with my LN initial at that age.

Congrats to Brigitte too!

19
December 16, 2011 2:52 PM

I appreciate all of the comments! This was a tricky year, since the biggest name stories tended to be so abstract. "Mark Zuckerberg" would have been the selection, except that particular name wasn't enough of the focus of the story. (BTW, I intended that runner-up to encompass the nominations for Anonymous, too -- somehow that didn't make it into the column, sorry!) Pippa was a much talked-about name, but didn't point to much in the way of broader trends. So it kept coming back to Siri.

I'll post an expanded version of the Siri piece later today, which might give a better sense of the reasoning behind the choice.

P.S. I guess that Lego series is the latest attempt in the Belville vein? Clearly Lego is still having trouble connecting with girls, which is hard for me to imagine. My two girls are into Lego in a big way. They recently borrowed my phone to use its camera, and I later discovered a little photoessay...they recreated every illustration in Edward Gorey's book "The Raging Tide: Or, the Black Doll's Imbroglio" out of Lego. Can't do THAT with Belville!

20
December 16, 2011 3:10 PM

zoerhenne - wow that sounds alternate universe to me, I've only ever met 3 other Stac(e)ys ever in real life and two of them were named Anastasia and Stacian but they both went by Stacy and they were all outside of school so I was always the only Stacey in my school, even in university I never had another Stacey in any of my classes that I knew of any way. yay for Staceys! Kind of sad there are very few if any little Staceys being named anymore, I don't know if it will ever experience a resurgence. Do you know what caused its popularity spike? and I've always wondered what killed it. I remember reading a post either here or at namecandy about it being a surname turned boys name turned girls name but not why that occurred. When I look at the Name Voyager, it's like it came out of no where, peaked then fell just as quickly.

21
December 16, 2011 5:12 PM

I always thought that Stacy/Stacey's peak was due to Stacy Keach. He is an actor whose career peaked in the late 60's early 70's so the timeline fits for my name. I wasn't named after anyone though, mom just liked the name.

22
December 16, 2011 5:39 PM

Regarding Lego, I have two daughters and we are sent a Lego magazine each month. (We don't pay for it; I think we started getting it when we signed up for an annual membership to Legoland.) It's very boy oriented. By boy, I mean lots of weapons and fighting. The animated comic strips of the Lego people show lots of scowling and dark colors. Rarely are there female lego people shown. I used to give it to my 5 and 8 year olds, but due to their disinterest, now I just throw it away.

I blame Lego for their aggressive marketing of their products to boys. The pieces themselves are gender neutral. It is their kits that make them "boy" toys.

These "girl" lego sets look very derivative of Polly Pockets, which probably means they would like them. It is annoying that one girl is the "smart girl." Why didn't they go with "inventor" or "scientist"?

23
December 16, 2011 7:28 PM

@ Birgitte-congrats!

Siri is interesting and the first time i have heard about its use in technology.

as far as Lego, my daughter really likes building and she likes Sonic the Hedgehog and Spiderman, but good luck finding those items anywhere in 'girls' toys or clothing.

for Staceys or Stacy, Stacie- i have known 5 in my lifetime and two were Anastasias.

in reply to the Andrea,Stephanie comment, well, i almost disputed the 'no one under 40 has this name' until i realized I am almost 40, lol! so i have known some Andreas and Stephanies, but yes, they are around my age and probably a little bit older. great posts everyone!

24
December 16, 2011 9:09 PM

Tirzah-Did you read the comments on the blog itself? Your sentiments completely echo what is being said by most. The marketing is what makes them "boy" toys and the new "girl" Lego people mimic Polly Pocket in their appearance. I think it will also be interesting to see the price point when it comes out. Who wants to pay $10US for a set that can only be put together 1 way and only contains about 30 tiny pieces of brick. Someone else on the Lego blog page equated the look to Playmobil. I like that assessment as well. Again, the cost is up there but Playmobil is VERY generic imo and has a multitude of possible scenerios even within the themed sets. My daughter has several Playmobil sets and my son has hooked onto the Star Wars Lego sets.

26
By Beth the original (not verified)
December 17, 2011 11:24 AM

Weird, my previous comment disappeared.

So, on Siri -- one thing I will say is that I live in the Bay Area, where Siri is indeed talked about and users refer to "her" as Siri, as in "Let's ask Siri about that." So whether or not it seems like a good choice for NOTY may depend on where you live.

I thought "Anonymous" should have come after "Pippa," and felt vindicated after Time made "The Protestor" the Person of the Year. So, you win some and you lose some.

27
December 18, 2011 1:08 AM

Siri was my guess for NOTY and I definitely support the choice!

I've been aware of the name for a few years now, and it was really interesting for me to see it as the name of Apple's new product.

I am in the bridal industry, and I used to work at a bridesmaids' boutique that carried a designer called Siri. The name stuck out to me, and I thought the sound was appealing and that it had potential as a girl's name, but I wasn't aware that it had any history of use as a "real" name. I later came across it while browsing through the top 100 Swedish names of 2007 (my husband is from Sweden and, naturally, I became more interested in Swedish names when we got into a relationship). In Sweden it was 65 at that time and was 57 in 2010. It was "on the list" for a little while, but my husband doesn't like it that much, and I think it's officially off the table with this new development. :) I wonder if/how use of the name in Scandinavia will be affected by the existence of the software...

28
By Melmo Peott (not verified)
December 18, 2011 11:36 AM

My husband sent me the link to this story through Slate because we've been keeping an eye on all of the info out there about Siri the computer program and its effect on pop culture. Why? Because in May (months before the iPhone 4S was released), we had a second child, a girl, whose name we decided upon much deliberation should be... you guessed it... Siri.

Are we psychic? No, it was just a strange coincidence: I'm a first-generation Norwegian-Canadian who wanted to give my daughter an interesting name and also honour my heritage. My mother's father's name was Sigurd, an Old Norse name meaning 'victory'. The feminine variation Sigrid was one of the names on our short-list but I worried if it would be too obscure for North American sensibilities so we went with Siri instead. Upon her birth, we indeed had a lot of explaining to do, but my mother and extended family back in Norway were excited that we had picked a traditional Scandinavian name.

And then in October, a tapped-in friend sent me a news story about Siri the voice app. WHAT?! I screamed. "Just my luck. We think of a cool name, with deep personal meaning, and now everyone will think we named her after an app!"

But in the months that followed, we've looked at it as a positive. People now know how to pronounce and spell it, and this kerfuffle has certainly become a conversation piece. Until “Siri” came along, our Siri was instead being called SUR-ee or ser-EE or ??? (they just stared blankly at us – and here I thought Sigrid would be a problem, I joked). No no no, SEE-ree, I’d repeat…

I'm relieved to hear the backstory about Dag Kittlaus - at least the name's roots are indeed Scandinavian, not just an acronym of a boring silicon valley computer company. So thank you for an enlightening and entertaining article. I'll pass it along to all of (baby) Siri's many admirers...

29
By Sharalyn (not verified)
December 18, 2011 11:49 AM

Hmm... I wonder if the Andrea, Stephanie, Stacey thing is a regional thing.

In the PNW, there are a *ton* of all three of them (I know many, many Stacy/Stacey's growing up, and only one who was Anastasia) in my generation and slightly after. Andrea and Stacey being slightly more common in my age group (the late 1970's crowd) and my little sister being one of 4 Stephanie/Stephany/Stefanie in her immediate classroom alone (early 1980's crowd). I still knew a ton of Stephanie's. I haven't heard that on a little one in a long time though.

My friend is sad as she has always wanted twin girls: Iris and Siri. Now both are becoming more known/used.

30
By Guest1938b (not verified)
December 18, 2011 12:16 PM

I must live in a completely different world! Not only do I know several girls under the age of 13 named Stephanie and Andrea (including at least one set of sisters), I also know several Stacey/Stacy under the age of 40 (though a majority are in their 20's and 30's).

I admit I didn't know many (did I know any besides the one boy in high school?) Stacey's growing up, but since I married and moved to a different state, they're everywhere!

I had a name growing up that was overly popular, there was at least two other girls in my class growing up with the same name (not exaggerating, there were at least three of us, and by the time we hit high school that number grew, per class). There was never a toy with my name, though, that could have been fun. I know my nieces love to find dolls with their names.

I agree that Lego doomed themselves with their advertising, but if you ignore that... ;) Most little girls I know love them, until a boy tells them that they are a toy for boys and then they feel like they're not allowed to play with them anymore. They promptly get a huge new batch of the things from me in response.

Great NOTY, I am out of it so I didn't know the tech applications, but that's what makes it a great choice. I'm not one to name the car or other things, but I could never get rid of the toys I'd named (still have them, actually). I know my friend names all her cars, and named the voice on her GPS, too (her sister picked a different name, led to some interesting arguments) and she had some great conversations that way.

31
December 18, 2011 1:43 PM

Melmo-Great story. I love using the name Siri as a nn for Sigrid even though I realize you didn't do exactly that.

Hey PennyX, is Siri/Sigrid too close to Ursula?

Sharalyn-Neat idea to use Iris/Siri as twins since they are anagrams of each other. Who was the one looking for twin names?

33
By Allison Margaret (not verified)
December 18, 2011 8:22 PM

Siri is an interesting pick. The reasons make sense, and I think Siri (the technology) is better known than Pippa Middleton and more reflective of cultural zeitgeist than Mark Zuckerburg. But even as a name nerd I didn't know whether Siri was an actual given name when the technology was released. I doubt most Americans know the name Siri as anything other than software.

34
By ninasayeth (not verified)
December 18, 2011 10:36 PM

I think Siri is an excellent choice! I was disappointed with last year's choice (The Situation) because I had no idea of where it had come from (still don't, to be honest), but Siri seems to be everywhere. I don't have an iPhone nor does anyone I know in real life, and I've still heard of Siri.

35
By Essy01 nli (not verified)
December 19, 2011 12:37 AM

Sharalyn - re: Stacey - I think region is probably a big factor but also age - I was named Stacey well after it had already peaked, so it was steeply declining already which is probably why I don't know many other Staceys - and probably why I never liked it growing up because it was off-trend already.

zoerhenne - never had heard of Stacy Keach before, interesting theory!

36
December 19, 2011 7:51 AM

All the Stephanie's I know and know of are under 30! I'm also a Stacey born in the 80's and have met quite a few other Stacey's. I'm not sure if it's because I'm Australian and the name got popular here later.
As for Siri I had never heard of the technology till the NOTY nominations.

37
December 19, 2011 11:20 AM

On the topic of first name technology, we had a GPS that we named Sheila. (Originally after the tank-driving tutorial in Red VS. Blue, but also because we selected the Australian accent to disguise the imperfections in the robo-voice.) A few months ago, though, our GPS was stolen. We bought a new one, and attempted to keep calling her Sheila... but she doesn't have an Australian voice option and now it's just weird. We may have to give her a new name...

38
By hyz nli (not verified)
December 19, 2011 12:35 PM

I have known more than a few Stac(e)y/Stacis over the years, all born late 70s/early 80s--same for Stephanies and Andreas. These would've been considered normal names among my peers growing up.

As for Siri, I hadn't heard of it until it was nominated here, but then the same was true for The Situation, so I'm getting used to it. :) So, I can't really say independently whether I think it was a great pick, but the article/rationale behind it were well-argued and I think Laura made a good case for it. I think I'm also just glad it wasn't Pippa, which I still feel was a bit too fluffy to be NOTY, as much as I love the name itself, and even though I'd actually heard of her, as opposed to Siri. Beth, I also took some satisfaction in the Time "person" of the year--but I can also see how Siri makes more sense in this context, since it's actually a name, and an interesting one at that. Melmo, thanks for sharing your story. I hope this development continues to be a positive one for your sweet Siri, although I definitely understand your trepidation!

39
December 19, 2011 12:51 PM

Although Siri isn't related to the Arab Spring or Occupy movements, I do think there's a case to be made for the relationship between technology and the facilitation of those movements. Without cell phones and social media sites like Twitter, the movements would have been much more difficult to publicize and promote. I therefore think it's appropriate to choose Siri as Name of the Year.

40
By Anna S (not verified)
December 19, 2011 1:23 PM

Dag Kittlaus is Norwegian, not Danish, and he worked for Telenor which is also Norwegian. And Dag itself is like über Norwegian!

41
December 19, 2011 1:46 PM

Zoerhenne: It's funny, after reading that post, I was "trying on" Sigrid in my mind, actually. It's pretty and the meaning is beautiful. I think it sounds a little too "from another culture" for us, though. We've got so many of our own to choose from (being such a mishmash) that it seems silly to go elsewhere. I don't think I have any Scandinavian in me and neither does dh.

42
By Amy3
December 19, 2011 2:30 PM

@Laura, congratulations on the article at Slate! While I wasn't sure about Siri as NOTY, and didn't vote for it, you make a compelling argument for why you chose it (@Beth, congrats for being first to suggest it!). I agree that we will see more and more "named" technology that bridges the gap between humans and machines.

I recently read an article in National Geographic about robots and the concept of the "uncanny valley" - that they can be humanoid but if they're *too* human, their differences become creepy, unsettling, and even revolting. Fascinating.

Years ago we had a car that talked to you (all I remember it saying, though, is "A door is ajar."). I think we called it Bill. Recently my daughter named our current car. It's 8 years old and we're thinking of replacing it in 2 years or so. I look forward to this being much more difficult now that he's acquired a name.

@Melmo, congratulations on your Siri! It's a great name and I'm glad the familiarity with the technology is making it easier for people to understand the name. Ideally it will be one of those things that fades into the background enough that few people, if any, believe you named her for the virtual assistant.

Re: Stacy/ey, Andrea, Stephanie ... Growing up in the 70s, I knew loads of each. Now I know a 10-year-old Stephanie (however I always want to use this name for her mother rather than her!) and a 5-year-old Anastasia (nn Ana) whose mom is a Stacy.

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December 19, 2011 3:39 PM

Thanks zoerhenne for another great article!

An ameliorating factor about Disney princesses is that it is really only popular from about age 3-6. My 8 year old daughter says that "nobody" likes princesses in 3rd grade. (Even last year, I remember getting ready to taker her to a birthday party and putting the present in a princess bag; my daughter noticed it right away and made me switch it to a different bag.) For Halloween, there were no princesses in the 3rd grade school parade. My daughter was Pippi Longstocking, which is pretty much the anti-princess.

44
December 19, 2011 8:03 PM

Tirzah-You are welcome for the article. I will also second the princess age group. My dd (also 8) was a princess for Halloween but the medieval kind she saw at the Renaissance fair. She is not very much into the dress up clothes box for Disney princess things but much more likely to pick the cheerleader outfit. With videos Barbie rates over Belle and the others.

45
December 19, 2011 9:33 PM

I thought this article from the Jewish Daily Forward might be of interest: http://www.forward.com/articles/147997/?p=1

Briefly it discusses the aftermath when the leader of the Lubavitch chassidic movement asked his followers to name their daughters after his deceased wife, Chaya Moussia, and they did--in droves. Both the article and the accompanying video are in English and do not require any special background to follow, well, as long as you can understand a Brooklyn accent.

46
By Wondering Dad (not verified)
December 19, 2011 10:14 PM

Hi,

I hate to threadjack, but I know this is the best place to ask for naming opinions from a sensitive and sophisticated, but not weird, audience.

My wife and I have been following the babynamewizard community now for almost 5 years (it is easy to date because that's when we started having (and naming) children). We have two sons, Henry and Samuel. Now we're expecting our 3rd and 4th (twins: a boy and a girl). My wife and I are a bit at loggerheads about a name for the girl-to-be and were looking for this group's input to help us make up our mind.

My wife very much wants the girl to have a name from her family. As she looks through her family tree, however, the only name that appeals to her for our little girl-to-be is "Hollis", which is the name of her great uncle.

She is quite enthusiastic for "Hollis," but I have two concerns:

1. "Hollis" is unisex (and, indeed, statistically trends male), and I really don't care for names that don't tell the hearer the sex of the person. I feel like there is a burden on the child (and eventual adult) of the confusion and uncertainty of unisex names. [My wife, in contrast, doesn't really see this as a problem.]

2. "Hollis" is not really stylistically like the names of the boys, which are more "timeless" and classic. [My wife thinks this isn't a problem, since (she rightly notes) girls' names rise and fall so much more quickly in popularity than boys' names.]

So, we wanted to hear what disinterested, name-wise observers thought about the name "Hollis" for our girl-to-be.

Thanks for any help.

47
December 20, 2011 8:38 AM

Wondering Dad-My son 11 has a Hollis in his school. Adorable child but I always have to consciously remember the name is not a boy he is referring to but a girl. I think the name can work in the right circumstances. It would depend on your location, the names of others in your family, how strong your family values are IF it becomes something your child has to repeat every day (i.e. Screw em rather than OMg we have to change this lovely name). On the other hand, what other options do you have? How about using Holly as a mn? Alternate ideas:
Hope, Amelia, Naomi, Claudia, Alice, Harper, Molly, Nora, Mallory, Courtney

48
By hyz
December 20, 2011 10:14 AM

Wondering Dad, I think Hollis fits ok stylistically with your boys. It's not a perfect match, obviously, but it's not way out of left field to me, either, especially for a girl--I tend to agree with your wife on that one. I think Hollis is an attractive name, and one sounds both timeless and modern. However, I do like it better for a boy than a girl, and I generally have the same feelings you do about giving unisex/boy-leaning names to girls. Honestly, that would probably be enough to put me off the name for my own girl. On the other hand, it's not one that would make me cringe at all if I heard it on a girl. It's more a surname than a traditional first name, and there is a strong history of using surnames for girls' FNs. Plus, you have the benefit of a family connection to it. It doesn't have a particularly masculine sound, and I don't think it has a strong association with any particular male figure for most people. I could see it feeling stylish and snappy on a girl. Personally, I would group it with names like Morgan, Blair, or Devon--all of which fit in the rare category of names I like on both sexes.

If it were me, I'd probably use Hollis as a MN, or change it to Holly for a first name. I really love Holly, for what it's worth, and it seems to be trending higher on the Daily Telegraph announcements than it does here, if that makes any difference to you or your wife. Holly may sound a bit '70s here (or at least my husband says so--I never knew any, so it's not dated for me), but its popularity abroad could foreshadow an upswing here. I think it's a really lovely, underused botanical today, very cheerful and bright without being too flowery or delicate. You may want to search the comments to the last few posts here, though--while regular sources like behindthename.com say that the meaning of Hollis derives from Holly, somebody here (can't remember who) recently said that it had a much less attractive derivation. I hadn't seen that before, but it may be worth looking into. Good luck!

49
By Amy3
December 20, 2011 10:51 AM

@Miriam, the article and video were fascinating, particularly when you contrast this with the wish so many parents seem to have to give their child a unique name so they *aren't* one of many. Here you have a community that was eager to bestow the same name on any number of girls and the girls (at least the ones profiled) all feel honored to bear the name.

@Wondering Dad, the only Hollis I know is the father of one of my daughter's friends so it skews middle-aged man for me, although I could see it on a girl, too. I agree with hyz that it fits into the Blair, Morgan, Devon camp of names that work well on a boy or a girl. I think my concern might be that with an ambiguous name and three other boys, your daughter may wish for a name that sets her apart. However, Hollis as a mn or changed slightly to Holly would do that.

Holly is a name that does feel a bit dated to me (I knew a couple when I was a kid), but it's not *that* dated and it's growing on me. It would stand out in a nice way from a sea of girls' names that end in A.

50
December 20, 2011 11:39 AM

Many years ago my sister went to school with a girl named Hollace, usually called Holly (naturally). I don't know if the spelling makes the name seem on the feminine side to me, or whether it's because this Hollace was the only one I ever met with any spelling of the name, but Hollis/Hollace does say 'girl' to me.