2010 Name of the Year: Call for Nominations

Nov 17th 2010

Every December, BabyNameWizard.com honors one name 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, reminding us of how names are woven into the fabric of society, 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 individuals real (Barack, Taylor), fictional (Renesmee), and conceptual (Joe, 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 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 always 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!

Backwards Baby Names: The Master List

Nov 11th 2010

It isn't just Nevaeh anymore.

Wordplay names, especially reversed spellings, are on the rise with namers of all styles. Aidan and Nadia, for instance, is a top-10 pairing for male/female twins. Semaj, created from James, is a top-1000 name for boys...and in the top 2000 for girls, too.

But like month and season names, this style is self-limiting. Not many names sound as good backwards as they do forwards. To spare you sleepless nights mulling over non-starters like Dennis, Lana and Star, I've combed through 4000 names (the top 2000 for boys and girls) to find the plausible backwards name pairs. All names in the left column rank in the top 2000; I eliminated pairs like Alaya and Ayala that are too close to consider using in the same family.

Adair / Riada
Adela / Aleda
Adiel / Leida
Aidan / Nadia
Ajani / Inaja
Alani / Inala
Alec / Cela
Alex / Xela
Alexi / Ixela
Ali / Ila
Allen / Nella
Ameer / Reema
Amin / Nima
Amir / Rima
Amirah / Harima
Anali / Ilana
Ani / Ina
Arden / Nedra
Ares / Sera
Ari / Ira
Aric / Cira
Ariel / Leira
Ariyah / Hayira
Aven / Neva
Avi / Iva
Axel / Lexa
Ayah / Haya
Aydan / Nadya
Flor / Rolf
Halie / Eilah
Hayes / Seyah
Iman / Nami
Issac / Cassi
Ivan / Navi
Kavon / Novak
Lina / Anil
Mac / Cam
Mara / Aram
Miah / Haim
Mika / Akim
Mikah / Hakim
Miles / Selim
Naima / Amian
Nala / Alan
Nate / Etan
Naya / Ayan
Noa / Aon
Noel / Leon
Nola / Alon
Nova / Avon
Nya / Ayn
Om / Mo
Semaj / James
Siri / Iris
Zaid / Diaz

Names Have Been Changed to Protect the...Movie?

Nov 5th 2010

I recently heard a curious tale. A friend of mine organized a kids' book club, with a twist. The kids would read a book, talk about it, then watch a movie based on that book and discuss the relationship between the two versions of the story. Everything was going swimmingly, until the day they read Lois Duncan's Hotel for Dogs.

As the kids discussed the book, they just weren't clicking with each other. One would describe a scene that really captured his interest, and others would stare at him in bafflement. Confusion grew, then irritation, then hostility. The book group was on the brink of meltdown when somebody cracked the code. Kids who took the book out of the library or ordered used copies were reading about a girl named Liz. Kids who bought the book new were reading about Andi. Same book, different names.

The culprit behind this switch-up was Hollywood. The book Hotel for Dogs was written in 1971. By 2009, when the movie came out, some of the names in the story didn't pass muster. That's a reasonable decision, on the face of it. The movie was set in the present, and name styles do change. Curiously, though, the changes don't seem to be about modernization. There are at least as many girls named Liz as Andi today, and Sadie is a positively trendy choice that got the boot. Meanwhile the name of the young male lead remained the far more outdated Bruce.

Stranger yet, the new names were adopted in the book of Hotel for Dogs -- not just the movie novelization, but the reprint of Duncan's 1971 novel. They went back and changed history.

The book group fiasco was just one side effect of this naming revisionism. As an Amazon reader noted, educational materials that had been built around the book, including popular testing software, were totally thrown off. And what about the book itself? How is the story affected by changing the author's name choices?

Perhaps it seems a little silly to fret about the artistic integrity of Hotel for Dogs, so let's push the question further. How about the naming equivalent of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Meet the Bennet sisters of Longbourn House: Leighton, Makenzie, Ainsleigh, Kendall and Braelyn. They'll need some beaus, of course. Let's call them nice-guy Bridger, imperious Slade, and squirrelly Kylen. Would you read that version of the book exactly the same way?

Hey, it could happen. We just need someone to make the movie version first.