2012 Name of the Year: Call for Nominations

Nov 14th 2012

Names are a window onto a society's style and psyche. Every December, BabyNameWizard.com honors the role of names in our culture by identifying a notable example that shaped -- and was shaped by -- the year that's been.

The Baby Name Wizard Name of the Year isn't necessarily the most popular baby name. It's a name that changed during the course of the year, and points to more changes around us. It's a one-name time capsule that reminds us of how names are woven into our lives, connecting to and reflecting everything that goes on in our culture.

Past honorees have come from Hollywood, politics and literature. They have included names of people real (Barack), fictional (Renesmee), and in-between (The Situation). They've included the names of specific individuals (Falcon), but also names that suddenly popped up everywhere at once (ChuckJoe, in the year of Joe Six-Pack and Joe the Plumber). What they all had in common was zeitgeist...and your nominations. This is a group effort!

The criteria for the 2012 Name of the Year selection include:

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning

- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends

- In the case of current events, "naminess" -- how essential the name is to the story

- Your votes. The NOTY is selected from reader nominations. The number of nominations counts in the decision, and compelling arguments in support of your candidate count most of all.

Please post your nominations in comments here, and feel free to second others' suggestions. Then look for the official Name of the Year announcement in December!

 

Comments

1
November 14, 2012 1:02 PM

Ooh, how exciting! Here's a few to get us started:

--Sandy--Current events have dominated the recent news and I have read several stories about the name and not just the storm

--Trayvon--The sad case of Trayvon Martin's killing dominated the news last spring. The fact that Trayvon's name was not one typically used by white families subtly reinforced the racial over(and under)tones in this story. The name Trayvon also fits nicely into current naming patterns for boys' names: ends in 'n', two syllables, strong vowel sound, etc.

--Mitt--The candidate's unusual name (admittedly a nickname, but the only name we ever heard on the news) was at odds with his conformist image.

--Tammy--See previous blog entry by Laura and recent post on NameCandy.

 

Game on, Name Enthusiasts! This is my second-favorite time of the naming year and I can't wait to see your submissions.

2
November 14, 2012 2:11 PM

Yeah, I gotta go with Mitt.  I mean, there are binders full of reasons why it works.  We certainly heard enough of it this year.  And hopefully that's it.

3
By desh
November 14, 2012 11:25 PM

Sandy. No question. Was in my head before I finished reading the headline for nominations.

4
November 15, 2012 3:14 AM

I have to agree with the others about Sandy, Mitt and Trayvon, but I also thought of a few others:

London -- Both the Olympics and Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee.

Kony  -- it seems like it was eons ago, but the Kony 2012 video. 

PSY -- Gangnam is probably the "word" of the year, but the performer's name is pretty influential as well.

Akin-- I don't want to legitimize his name, but his comments and so-called "War on Women" might be why the Democrats won so many seats this election.

5
November 15, 2012 1:07 PM

I'd like to nominate the name Blue Ivy. I think the wild uniqueness of the name and the efforts to trademark it nicely reflect what names are becoming to society now.  Celebrity naming trends seem to be embraced more and more and the name Blue Ivy is a composition that has probably never been applied to a child before reflecting the drive to create a completely unique name for every child.  

6
By Jude
November 15, 2012 2:48 PM

Another nomination for Trayvon Martin. Not only was the story a major one earlier in the year, but his name was an essential part of that story. The fact that Treyvon is such a distinctly African-American made it impossible to talk about his death without acknowledging the racial aspect of the crime. Every mention of his name forced the listener to remember Trayvon's ethnic heritage, and wonder what effect that had on his murder. Had he been named something more mainstream (or white), it may have been easier to gloss over that aspect of the crime. I saw a lot of comments online that mocked his name, and led to some quite racist discussions about naming differences in the black community. I think that the name Trayvon really was central to the story told, in a way that I don't feel the names Mitt or Tammy were. Mitt Romney and the newly elected Tammys are important, but the names themselves aren't as big a part of it. 

7
By PJ
November 15, 2012 4:21 PM

I agree that Hurricane Sandy was a big deal but I don't think it passes the "naminess" test. The coverage would have been the same if it was hurricane Sarah or hurricane Sam.

I do think that Mitt reflects some trends of the increased casualness of our society, but Laura has already written about that before.

Trayvon. That was a story where the name was a crucial part of the story and I think it would have been very different if the boy who died had been named Tim. as Jude said above, every mention of Trayvon in the media also brought up other topics of race and racial naming. I remember there was an email going around with a picture of Trayvon dressed as more of a gangster rapper in an effort to claim the media wasn't protraying him accurately. Turns out it was a picture of different young man with the same name, this one still very much alive. But my point is that people have certain ideas or baggage associated with a kind of urban black naming style. It's a dicey topic but very much a relevant one.

8
November 15, 2012 9:12 PM

This is certainly a lighter suggestion, but how about Tebow?  My HS students now pose for photos while "Tebowing".

9
November 15, 2012 9:18 PM

I'm liking Sandy.  "Sandra" peaked in the 1940s, and it is almost ready for the Great-Grandma revival.  And with full name options of Alessandra, Cassandra, and Sandra available, Superstorm Sandy might just let loose a wave a Baby Sandys.

10
November 15, 2012 10:11 PM

I like both Mitt and Tebow!  I don't think Sandy has nearly the same naming impact that Katrina did--I know many Sandys and will not think of this storm every time I hear the name, while I do think of Hurricane Katrina every time I hear Katrina. 

11
November 16, 2012 4:45 AM

I suggest Lance as a name that lost its reputation this year because of Lance Armstrong's final fall from a sevenfold winner of the Tour de France to nothing.

To my feeling, 2012 wasn't a very "namy" year, the main protagonists in politics (except for China, but the names of chinese leaders don't make impact in the western world) and popular culture remained the same, the hurricanes weren't as big as Katrina, and the olympic games didn't bring up new interesting names. Trayvon was big in spring, but I must admit that I had to re-read it here to remember that his name belongs to 2012.

 

12
November 16, 2012 6:42 AM

One point of note: Most people I have heard discussing the killing of Trayvon Martin, in conversation and the news media, have pronounced his name "TRAY-von." According to those who knew him, though, it was "tray-VON," emphasis on the second syllable.

You can hear his mother pronounce it in this Mother's Day video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KaOw4cQEHs

And at 4:36 in this interview clip:

http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/04/12/11159111-update-trayvon-martins-mom-retracts-accident-characterization-says-zimmerman-killed-him-in-cold-blood?lite

And the girl he was on the phone with the night of his death, in the fourth audio clip in this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/us/trayvon-martins-friend-tells-what-she-heard-on-phone.html

 

This probably hasn't had any bearing on the treatment of the name in people's discussion of the case, but I think it's an interesting aspect of the name's role in the national conversation this year that it was widely mispronounced.

13
November 16, 2012 11:01 AM

"Gangnam" is a name!  It's a district in Seoul, and the song is referring (humorously) to the hip-trendy-upper-class quality of the neighborhood. 

14
November 16, 2012 11:09 AM

If Gangnam and Psy are nominated, then Maybe (from "Call Me Maybe") deserves a nod, too.

15
November 16, 2012 7:57 PM

I'll pop in a suggestion for Mo.  A year ago, I wouldn't have had much to say about it.  Now the name brings to mind the Olympic Games and the hard work, talent and big emotions that went with them.  The name Mo (short for Mohamed) also suggests the celebration of diversity, since Farah, a Somali-born British Muslim, became something of a national treasure and poster-boy.

Plus, of course, the name has this year developed its own dance move and word coinage, the "mobot" :)

I don't know whether he had so much coverage in the US, though, so maybe this is more of a country-specific name of the year.

16
November 17, 2012 1:55 PM

I'm really not terribly familiar with the Mo associations that you mentioned. It being November and all, what first came to my mind was Movember and all the dirty 'staches that come along with it.

17
November 17, 2012 9:06 PM

Mobot isn't a new word!  I first heard it almost 20 years ago; there is a mobot (mobile robot) race every year on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

I agree that Mo got a lot of play, though, esp. among Olympics fans and runners.  (Meb, too, as you might expect.) 

 

18
November 18, 2012 8:21 AM

I'm putting in my suggestion for Snow.

There was not one but two big snow white movies this year (Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman), Kristin Stewart starred in one, and created headlines wirldwide when her affair with the director was discovered. 

Once Upon a Time also remains a hugely popular show in 2012, with Snow White again as a lead character.

Snow is popping up all over the place in birth announcements, usually as a somewhat fanciful middle name of choice for many. 

I think Snow is almost indicative of people looking at fairy tales as a source of hope in these hard economic times. Not only is it a fairy tale name though, it also symbolises purity and a fresh start for many people. Snow is beautiful and usually occurs during the holidays (In America), a time when we reflect on the things we can be thankful for and look forward to the future with hope.

19
November 18, 2012 3:37 PM

Oops!  Ok, it's not a new word - showing my (lack of) age there :)

20
November 18, 2012 6:53 PM

Trayvon seems like a good choice for all of the reasons given above!

Harry's the one that came to mind for me. 18 months ago, the name was just a really old-man name in North America (and most people wrinkled their nose and said it just sounds 'hairy', royal in a slightly stuck-up way, or geekily Potterish). 2012 not only saw Harry top the UK charts for the first time, but there's also the headline-grabbing Prince Harry and Mr Styles from One Direction. It seems now to be an energetic young name with a slightly British vibe- say the way Jack came across a few years ago. Ask a north american teen what they though of Harry two years ago and again now and I'm sure the response would be very different. I'm not sure if it counts as 'name of the year' in a serious sense, but I think it's a name that's undergone a huge change in its connotations and associations in the last year and a bit!

21
November 18, 2012 9:28 PM

"Ermahgerd"

I thought it was a name at first. Definitely all over the Internet. 

22
By PJ
November 19, 2012 12:10 AM

I always learn new things on this blog. I had never heard of Mo Farah or the unfortunate "ermahgerd" until now.

23
November 19, 2012 4:40 AM

After some thinking, here is my second nomination: Gabrielle.

First, is is for Gabrielle Giffords who became a shooting victim in January 2011. On a few occasions she retruned to the public in 2012. The incident symbolises the deep gulf between the politcal parties in the USA.

Second, it is for the "latino-ness" of the name Gabrielle and its related names, symbolising the raise of latinos in the USA.

 

24
November 20, 2012 1:44 AM

Hello everyone! I'm Sue, a 21-year old education student and name enthusiast who's been reading this blog for awhile now. Finally decided to jump in! I second Gabrielle, and would like to mention gold medal winning gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, the first association that comes to mind when I hear the name. 'Gabby' Douglas has been declared 'America's New Sweetheart' by numerous media outlets, even gracing the cover of People magazine. Ms. Douglas is (as stated by Wikipedia) " the first African-American gymnast  in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics."

The name has always been a personal favorite of mine, as my best friend and closest confidant for going on 10 years now is a 'Gabriell' (no 'e'). She goes almost exclusively by 'Gabi', a super-cute nickname in my opinion.

And who could forget Gabrielle Solis of Desperate Housewives? (RIP)

 

25
By JayF
November 20, 2012 1:47 PM

I'd like to take us back to The Hunger Games movie.

Two names that stand out are Katniss and Rue.

I see these books in the hands of moms all the time. If ever two name might see a surge, I think Katniss and Rue could.

Rue sounds old-fashioned and could appeal to those who like names like Lily and Rose but want something fresher sounding (pardon the pun!) and Katniss could appeal to parents looking to name their kids after a strong heroine, and who like the strong K sound, like Kate, Katherine, Kayla, Kellyn...

I think, though that Katniss lovers would more likely pick a name LIKE Katniss.

But, last spring, the name Katniss was all over the place, loved and hated in equal measure. These books and movies are still popular, and with two movies still to come, I think the names hit the spot. They both also really speak to the characters personalities, and dystopian fiction continues to see these kinds of naming trends, where they stand on the edge of what's popular now, and look at what might be popular in the future.

I'll second Trayvon, because it is unique, likely to get picked up, and unlike Mitt, it fits more with current trends for names. It also sort of was the story, and when you hear the name, you know the story.

I'll also second Lance because his name had become a brand, and the name/brand took a dive.

 

So, my picks:

First female: Katniss

Second female: Rue

First male: Trayvon

Second male: Lance

 

 

 

 

26
November 20, 2012 6:44 PM

How about Bain?

The private equity firm definitely was top of mind during the election with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

It is a surname like Lane that might make a comeback but it has a lot of negative associations not the least of which is the synonymn "bane". 

However, what Bain has going for it as the name of the year is the election reference and now it has been transformed into a verb. "To be Bained" means to have a company be financially raped and pillaged by a private equity firm. See NYTimes' Dealbook article:

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/private-equity-and-hostess-stumbling-together/

27
November 20, 2012 9:00 PM

How about ViolentAcrez? His "trolling"/sincerely posting offensive content started a controversy about how far anonymity and privacy on the internet really go, and whether there should be real-life consequences for online activities. It also sparked a discussion about whether unmasking or "doxing" pseudonymous internet users is ethical. To me, the whole thing was about names. On the internet, are you still yourself, with your real name attached, or are you now a fictional character named "ViolentAcrez"?

My one qualm is that nominating him, voting for him, or choosing him could be interpreted as glorifying him... definitely not my intention.

28
November 21, 2012 2:16 PM

Katniss was my first thought, too - although I don't know how 2012 specific it is since the books were so popular before the movie.

I do think Trayvon works, although (unfortunately) that story has already faded from public consciousness.  I can't imagine reading the name next year and immediately remembering why it was important & representative.

Sandy & Mitt don't pass the test for me either - both were part of big, memorable stories from the year but as a PP said, in neither case was the name really an important part of the story.

I did like another PPs suggestion of Blue Ivy.  It's unusual style, celebrity connection and most importantly, the attempt to trademark it are a perfect illustration of our culture's changing views of names.

 

29
November 21, 2012 4:35 PM

The first ones I thought of for the year were:

- Gabby (Gabby Douglas)

- Blue Ivy

- Sandy (Hurricane Sandy)

Such great posts!  I'm excited to hear the nominees and winner :)

30
November 21, 2012 10:09 PM

Hanner.  

 

Hanner Perea is a player on the #1 rated IU basketball team.  He's currently not playing because of nccaa violations his guardian made before he was born.  

 

So maybe it's not actually a candidate for name of the year 2012, but I am nominating so that it's on the radar for  the next few years.  I can imagine this name becoming very popular, because it does fit into popular names but also is unique.  This particular player is south american and pronounced like Han Solo, and not like Ann but it sounds good either way.

31
By KO
November 22, 2012 5:03 AM

Camden has been all over the celeb scene lately.  I also think Akin is an important name since it seemed like his crazy comments on rape were the begining of the end for the tea party repubs.  After him the dems seized the opportunity to call out the others and they delivered more crazy misogynistic nonsense.  This last election was heavily influenced by "women's issues" especially abortion and rape. 

32
November 22, 2012 10:52 PM

I can't believe it's this time of year again, feels like yesterday I was being (annoyingly) adamant about Pippa last year.

Out of the suggested, I like Gangnam and PSY the best, it came out of no where (seemingly) and has become a cultural phenomenon.

Can't think of anything new really. Nothing stands out, but I am not a fan of Sandy or Mitt...

 

 

33
November 23, 2012 10:44 PM

What about Honey Badger? Or was that last year? 

34
November 24, 2012 1:02 AM

Thought of one not suggested yet how about LIN as in Jeremy Lin and LINSANITY?

Lynn is a very well known girls name on its own as well as an ending syllable but with Jeremy's breakout in the NBA this past year it became sometching completely new culturally and spawned hundreds of LIN- memes and sayings

I think if you're a sports fan and you hear "Lin" you're going to think of Jeremy

 

 

35
November 24, 2012 11:25 AM

I rather like the idea of nominating Snow. It's the only one I've seen so far of people using it as a new name, as well as allof the other reasons the nominator had listed.

I'd like to submit Paul. Ron Paul has inspired a political movement that touches both sides of the aisle which emphasizes freedom and the rule of law. The media won't talk about him much, but he has been in politics for 30 years, has kept his oath of office (defended the Constitution), is inspiring the rising generation of politically active young people with his message (which he plans on continuing to spread), and he's retiring this year. As far as his name goes, it sounds incredibly old fashioned and is the most inconspicuous name, I see a lot of people searching for old, lost values that suddenly have relevance in today's world (such as people learning to grow their own food, keeping chickens for the eggs, buying silver coins in anticipation of the dollar collapse, the homeschooling movement growing beyond the religious community, the Prepper community growing, etc). There are people challenging the status quo yet who are not talked about much in the media, which I think the inconspicuous name Ron Paul represents.

That said, I have to disagree with using Mitt. Mitt won't be remembered after this election year. His name is insteresting, but that's about it.

I'm also afraid Trayvon doesn't hold much meaning to me. It's a tragedy, but I see no relevance to the naming world, or to our culture. Maybe I'm just a hermit ^_^

Maybe Sandy. I don't know if such a mother-aged name would affect the naming world much, and I don't know if it affected or reflected culture much. I just kinda wish I heard more about what was happening with those people after the election. You know their problems weren't solved in one week. The silence bothers me.

36
November 24, 2012 3:30 PM

Though I would hate to see the name win, because we won't remember it in 20 years, I'd like to recommend Honey Boo Boo and her family, which is chock full of interesting nicknames.  Maybe they could go straight to the "honorable mention" category.

37
November 25, 2012 3:37 AM

I'm going to say Snow aswell, since I was planning on nominating it before I read the others.

I think that the 3 takes on Snow White have changed the perception of the character and name.

And I can see people naming their child Snow.

38
November 25, 2012 8:32 PM

My votes go to Pippa, whose name is now commonplace among Americans, and I will also ditto Tebow.

39
November 26, 2012 11:51 AM

My vote is for Grey.  50 Shades of Grey was everywhere this year and I think there is going to be a whole wave of 'Grey' babies in the near future.

40
By Amy3
November 26, 2012 3:41 PM

When I consider these criteria:

- A dramatic change in the name's usage or social meaning

- A reflection of a broader cultural theme, or influence on broader style trends

- In the case of current events, "naminess" -- how essential the name is to the story

I'm inclined to cast my vote with the suggestion of Blue Ivy. I'm not sure it meets the first criterion, but I do think the name itself and the desire to trademark it are reflective of a broader culture theme (name as brand) and the name is certainly essential to the story.

42
By mk
November 26, 2012 10:28 PM

Wow, I don't even recognize a lot of the suggestions here. The only real standout for me is Sandy, because it is still very much in the news, at least where I am. But not sure if it fits all the criteria. Pippa actually may work for this year.

 

 

43
November 27, 2012 4:12 PM

Is Sofia/Sophia too unspecific to 2012?

It just hit number one for the 2011 names (revealed this year) and NASA's SOFIA Spectrometer has been around for a few years, but this May it detected two new molecules.  Modern Family premiered in 2009, but Sofia Vergara seems to be as popular as ever now. Sophia is also a character in Walking Dead, which pre-dates 2011 but is ridiculously popular right now. Finally, Disney's Sofia the First debuted last week and has generated headlines regarding whether she is latina (enough.)

Am I missing anything? 

44
November 27, 2012 6:33 PM

I'm surprised no one's mentioned the names Ryan (for Ryan Lochte), Malala (for the girl who was shot by the Taliban), Whitney (for Whitney Houston), and Neil (for Neil Armstrong, who died this year).

 

I would also like to second Snow, Katniss, and Rue.

 

-Kelly

45
November 27, 2012 10:22 PM

How about Curiosity? NASA is showing us that they're still kicking and sending us amazing pictures of the red planet to boot. Otherwise I really like the suggestions of Trayvon and Tebow.

46
November 28, 2012 12:25 PM

As much as I don't LIKE it, I vote for Maxwell...on a girl.  Not just one, but two celebrities have used it for a girl, including Jessica Simpson.  It reflects the broader trend of giving girls androgynous or even traditional boy names.  It definitely has the naminess factor.

Blue has also been used a lot lately in celeb land, so I can see that.  I think the androgynous trend is bigger though.

I understand where people are coming from voting for Trayvon, but I think it would be in bad taste to use it as NOTY.  It doesn't really reflect broader naming trends anyway.  The -en thing has been going on for a long time.

47
November 28, 2012 5:23 PM

Well I already seconded my top five (Blue Ivy, Sandy, Mitt, Grey, Psy), but I'll also say Katniss and Tebow hit the NOTY nail on the head.

48
By RB
November 28, 2012 7:22 PM

I basically live under a rock pop-culture-wise, but I agree with Blue Ivy (clearing out the entire floor of the hospital?!) and Gangnam (most watched YouTube video of all time?!). Actually Grey is a pretty great suggestion too, though I would not have thought of it myself.

I don't get Katniss (I mean I know who she is but I don't see how it's different than, say, Reneesme, from a previous year). I know who Tim Tebow is but I don't know what Tebowing means or why his name would be special.

Mitt and Sandy are timely as far as news but they don't really say anything about names in our time. They are good options but not exciting. London and Snow aren't bad either but similarly don't grab me.

Sadly I think Trayvon is the best suggestion. I think it speaks to a lot of the talk about racism vs. "post-raciality" that has gone on in the past 4 years, especially vis-a-vis the Obama presidency. It also became a verb (wearing a hoodie or having yourself photographed in a hoodie). It's not a name that had a radical change in its meaning or that will influence naming trends hereafter, but it will forever be associated with this one particular young man and with a complex cluster of endemic social problems within the US that many people try to suggest are over or no longer relevant.

All this is to say that I don't have any ideas of my own but I'm mulling over the great suggestions put up by more creative people.

49
November 29, 2012 2:16 AM

As an Australian I haven't heard of a lot of the names mentioned, Tebowing has absolutely no meaning where I am. I'd never heard of Trayvon.

If Name of the Year is more for America, then Trayvon I could see working, but if it's meant to be more global I don't think Trayvon has had really any impact. I guess it would be like me nominating Jill for Jill Meagher, I'm assuming that outside of Australia and Ireland no-one would have heard of her.

50
November 29, 2012 7:27 PM

I second saenra's comment - a lot of the names mentioned mean nothing outside America.  I think Psy or Gangnam are real names of the year -  his video came out of Korea and became a global phenomenon, the most viewed video on Youtube ever, and also got picked up by Ai Weiwei and turned into a wonderful way of protesting artistic and political freedom.