The Name of the Year, 2009: pt. 3, The Winner

Dec 10th 2009

We've counted down the first and second runners up, and now it's time for the official 2009 Name of the Year. Brace yourselves, name enthusiasts, because it may not be what you're expecting....


Yes, it's another Twilight name, which makes for a potent and timely launching pad. But the impact of Renesmee goes far beyond vampires. This name is the spark that lit a long-building cultural bonfire to usher in the Age of the Mashup Baby Name.

For those who have skipped the whole Twilight phenomenon, Renesmee is the child of the series' two young heroes, and thus half human and half vampire. Most importantly for our purposes she is named after her two grandmothers, Renée and Esme. (Her middle name, Carlie, comes from grandpas Carlisle and Charlie.)

Twilight author Stephenie Meyer has said that she chose the name because no normal human name would do for an otherworldly creature like Renesmee. It also strikes me as a realistic choice for a couple of teenage parents. Undead or not, they live in a time when creativity in baby name is prized, particularly by younger parents. What's more, they live in a celebrity-saturated world, in the long shadow of Bennifer.

When actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez started dating in 2002, the press christened the pair Bennifer. Since then, a portmanteau or "mashup" name has been de rigueur for every celebrity couple, real or fictional. (See yesterday's discussion of Tay Tay.) A young adult today has come of age surrounded by names like TomKat and Brangelina.

Renesmee, introduced at the end of 2008, brought a new name to our language. Real-life Renesmee sightings are increasing all the time. More importantly, though, it broke down the barriers between celebrity mashups and baby names. As a reader wrote, "I do know of several people that copied the idea and gave their children first or middle names that are mash-ups of the grandparents' names."

In Namipedia, I've seen a rising number of name submissions created from two parents' or grandparents' names. (I usually reject them, assuming that a name like Brendeth will only appeal to the narrow group of readers who also have parents named Brenda and Kenneth.) Our sister blog "Ask The Name Lady," too, is receiving more and more questions about how to combine family names like George and Edward.

Like all celebrity name trends, Renesmee's fashion power depends on the fact that the world was ready for it. To quote The Name Lady's column, "For centuries, the way to honor Grandpa George and Grandpa Edward was obvious. George Edward. Or Edward George, if you prefer. That's what a namesake is, right?" Renesmee became the name of the moment, and the Name of the Year, because parents today still love their relatives...but aren't willing to sacrifice their sense of style to show it.

With best wishes for the naming year to come,



By JenLF (not verified)
December 10, 2009 11:55 AM

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. I've never even heard of this name. Granted, I've never read (nor will I ever) any of the Twilight books, but I do at least know who Bella and Edward are.

By Steve (not verified)
December 10, 2009 12:10 PM

I look forward to naming my next daughter Pikey or Maula, and my next son Denvid or Davennis.

By Guest (not verified)
December 10, 2009 12:29 PM

I can not decipher how to pronounce that name!

December 10, 2009 12:33 PM

@guest reh-NEZ-may. They call her Nessie for short.

December 10, 2009 12:35 PM

Haha, Laura, were you giggling at our giddy (and wrong) guesses yesterday? You're right I didn't see this one coming, but as usual I think you make some great points about it. I guess I didn't realize that the idea of mash-up names was really just coming into it's own. Or maybe I should say I know people have done it for awhile, but I didn't realize that it was becoming that much more common.

I am a little sad that none of the financial names, Bernie, Fanny, Freddie made it on any level. I'm often pretty out of touch with pop culture stuff (nothing against those who keep up, I just have a roommate for that;), but I'm very in tune to NPR etc so for me the financial situation is what I will remember 2009 for, and that includes these names. I do understand that they don't reflect a wider cultural shift though.

So anyone want to try and do match-ups with my grandparents' names? Joan, Cornelia, Kenneth and Millar. Joanelia? Just Nelia isn't bad, but it isn't a mash-up. Kennar (sounds like Gunnar!), Milleth, Jillar (nn Jill?), lol, these ones don't match up well, but I'd be interested to see other people's or their additions to mine.

December 10, 2009 12:50 PM

i'm slightly disappointed as well, but i think that's because it irks me to see twilight get more attention than i think it should. laura's justification is very good though.

jenny l3igh,
my first thoughts are jornelia and killar, though i'd strongly advise against the latter. :]

By Joni
December 10, 2009 12:51 PM

Well, I for one am glad that the NOTY was not Jackson. I am relieved that there is someone else out there that thinks that while it was sad that he died that his life doesn't encapsulate the entire year.

I do have to agree that the mashup name (I can't spell portman-whatever)is a live and kicking. Ultimaltely, style still reins over 'namesake', imho. Parents who are trying to honor Gladys and Bert are not going to get something that sounds appealing in today's style. Gladert? Berdys? Dysgla? It really only works when the mashed names fit the other style trends of the era.

By AmberSim (not verified)
December 10, 2009 1:22 PM

I'm surprised, but I think you nailed it- especially going with the "mash up" trend (both in baby names and celebrity couples) rather than it being 100% Twilight related.

But I have to say- there's been a Twilight name as either NOTY or runner up for 3 of the past 4 years (ok, Emmett in 2006 was not related to Twilight in the write up, but still...). Enough already? Can we all agree now that 2010 NOTY will be Twilight free?

My kids grandmas are Dorothy and Regina. All I can come up with is Dorgina. yuck.
Grandfathers are Robin and Steve- that's a bit easier: Sorin, Stobin, Reve (or Reeve), Rove. The mash up isn't something I'd ever do, but those aren't terrible options if it were.

By KW (not verified)
December 10, 2009 1:22 PM

Clearly, the way to do a mash-up of Edward and George is Edge. (Special bonus for U2 fans, too.)

December 10, 2009 1:26 PM

KW is a genius!

By Wendy C (not verified)
December 10, 2009 1:27 PM

Understand the reasoning, but since most of the world has probably not heard the name Renesmee (she doesn't appear until book 4)it just doesn't have the impact of Katrina or Barack Hussien Obama.

So starting my campaign now for Tiana as name for 2010. ;)

Happy holidays!

December 10, 2009 1:30 PM

Last summer, my roommate and I were combining names of various couples to see what we could come up with. The only name that came out sounding good was a combination of her brother David and his ex Shana- Dana.

A few others came out sounding at least something like a name, but I don't remember what they were.

By Miss Kitty (not verified)
December 10, 2009 1:36 PM

Having attended BYU, I am sure Stephenie Meyer is aware of the longstanding trend in Utah to do this sort of thing. Name mashing has occurred for generations there. I always thought that Meyer was quietly making fun of that, as no one in the book seems to like the name.

In fact, my cousin, who is in her 50s was named for her parents. She was the first child, so Ross + Ilene became Rosilene. And yes, she is from Utah.

By Smismar (not verified)
December 10, 2009 1:43 PM

I am GUILTY! I did it before I ever read Twilight, though. My daughter's middle name is Caron (which is a legit name in it's own right, I have to add). It's IHO my mother Carol and my MIL Sharon.

I'll get over it that Stephenie Meyer stole my idea ;-)

By LuLuZoo (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:08 PM


What about Dorina, Dorogina, Doree, Dina, Donna?

By mikala (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:17 PM

Bleh. Another disappointed reader. Probably because I've never heard of it, don't know how to pronounce it, even with the helpful reader pronunciation post and also just doesn't look good on paper. I would have liked a name I at least heard.

But going with the grandparents are Barbara and Theodore (Ted)...Boys: Bart, Theb, Tab. Girls: Tara, Thea (a stretch as a mash-up), ??

By Jane in another life (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:23 PM

I have nothing to saw but EW.

I have a mashup name, or had it, until I got married and happily shed the drug-induced mishmosh of my great-grandmother and great-aunt's names that my mother came up with in some fit of madness. I don't even have a sane first name to fall back on, either. Spent my whole life wishing she'd just named me Jane or something.

Creativity = dooming your kid to have to spell their name out every time it comes up, and having to fake-smile when someone, startled by the Kre8TiVity, says "Oh! That's....nice."

Just say no!

By klois (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:27 PM

Name mashing or portmanteaus for fictional couples, though, started long before 2002. Well, I was aware of them long before that - especially among soap opera fans. Liason fans - a name for fans of Elizabeth and Jason on General Hospital - bought an ad somewhere I recall seeing, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans often divided into Spuffy (Spike/Buffy) or Spangel (Spike/Angel) fans.

I admit, I find the history of portmanteaus fascinating and often wondered where mushing couple names together really started, but even in my limited cursory research, definitely, for fictional couples, it was before 2002. :)

December 10, 2009 2:30 PM

Jane, No fair! You're leaving us all madly curious as to what you consider a monstrous name.

My dad is Herbert and my father-in-law is Chadwick. We joked that our son could be Chadbert or Herwick. Joni nailed it with her comment "Ultimately, style still reins over 'namesake'." Our son is Peter.

By CB, nli (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:50 PM

Hmmmm. Count me as one for whom mash-ups are old hat. I'm originally from the deep South, and I can think of many mash-ups I've come across, spanning generations.

That said, I think there is the case to be made that this trend is now no longer a sub-cultural thing, but a cross-cultural one.

Let's, for a future son, I could mash-up his grandpa's names for Barbert, Rorry, Robby, Barrert. Daughter could be Carena, Denol, Derol, Carna, or simply Caroldena.

Really, it's best if one namesake's name ends with the first letter of the other's name.

By Amy3 (nli) (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:50 PM

Bravo, Laura! I may not like the name, but the fact that it's a true reflection of its time in terms of naming style (plus coming from the super-popular Twilight) makes it a great NOTY.

By Annie B. (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:51 PM

Oh boy! Portmanteau family names would give me Bohn (or Jobby! FIL's given name is Bobby) or Kaylyn, which I could see being a real name, but not one I ever would use.

By Amy3 (nli) (not verified)
December 10, 2009 2:58 PM

Hmmm, the mashups of my grandparents' names are:

*Kazel, Kathzel, Hazerine, or Hazine
*Franth, Franthony, Anthonk, or Ank

Those don't really work!

By illinois erin (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:02 PM

I have never heard this name... and I did not know how to pronouce it. Thanks Tintin for the pronunciation. But if it is pronounced reh-NEZ-may, then shouldn't the nickname by Nezzie (not Nessie)?

By Philippa The First (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:05 PM

Oh my goodness. I had written out a whole comment about how I dislike the Renesmee name so. very. much and it all just seemed like so much TwiHype (see what I did there?! Mash-up!) blah blah I'm disappointed. Then I started playing around with mashup names.

So while I would be um... Vicelle? Or Luclet? (my grandmothers were Violet and Luce11e), which does not seem like a realistic choice, my daughter would be a Hevonne or Yvelen after her grandmothers Yvonne and Helen. I can absolutely see someone naming their child Hevonne (pron. Heaven) or Yvelen (pron. Evelyn) and thinking they were the master of creativity and unique style. So, kudos for opening our snobby, disappointed eyes to this trend.

December 10, 2009 3:06 PM

Ok James + Terry = Jerry, which though not my style is at least a real name. But Kathryn + Beverly? Beverlyn? Katherly? Hmm...pretty bad either way.

I've never read Twilight, and wouldn't have known Renesmee except for this blog, but it does make sense as a reflection of the name portmanteau trend in 2009. After all Katherine Heigl's adopted daughter Nancy Leigh is called Naleigh...

December 10, 2009 3:07 PM

emilyrae- Yeah I don't think Killar will be added to my list;)

By Philippa The First (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:09 PM

Boys time!

My bro could have been Bralan or Aluce (if we pronounce Bralan like Bray-len, it's s total winner!) (grandfathers Bruce and Alan)

My daughter's hypothetical brother could have been Rill or Boss (grandfathers Bill and Ross). Maybe if someone was also a big Springsteen fan?

By Philippa The First (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:10 PM

Anne with an E: Beverlyn is TOTALLY see-able. Is it that far away from Katelynne?

By Cathie (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:14 PM

Laura, brilliant as always!

No-one seems to have mentioned it, but mash-ups have been fairly common for awhile in African American naming too.

FWIW, I think it is totally appropriate to go with Twilight vs. financial meltdowns etc. Babynamers are more often in their 20s and up on pop culture than older folks glued to the evening news wondering about their investment portfolios... And even if you didn't get to book 4 (I didn't), I think it was talked about enough as an "event" -- people pretty much know about the baby and its name.

BTW, CB, I kind of like Carena!

By Amy3
December 10, 2009 3:15 PM

I can't resist playing more with the mashups.

My daughter could have been Juma or Madith. I guess those could pass as given names although I'd never use them.

If she'd been a boy she could have been Burmas or Thomard. Don't really like those.

December 10, 2009 3:24 PM

Bravo Laura! I have not read the books nor seen the movies but know about Twilight through the media and this blog. Smashups seem to be much more commonplace than they were years ago. So I think it is truly fitting in the same way the runner-ups were. They all tie the name trend in with the cultural trend which is what they are supposed to do.

As far as my own kre8tivitay, we are dealing with Vera + Dorothy or Benjamin + John. So..
Vora, Deara, Vothy, Devra(not bad)
Bohn(maybe for U2 fans), Banjo, Jammin John LOL!

By knp (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:25 PM

Hm, I'd be Marla or Very (Mary & Verla), and my bro Marold or Donion (Marion and Donald).

My children would be Macy/Marcy or Nanry (mary + Nancy) or Ranald or Dondy (also Randy and Donald).

An observant reader will notice the large numbers of Mary & Donalds (out of 8 ppl)-- interestingly, one each is from each side of the family!!

Any way, I'd rather play with some of the middle names (Gail, Raymond, June, Alice, Lee, but not so much Ronald)

By AmberSim (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:34 PM

If I had been a mash up name (Flora and Virginia):
Vira (ugh- would get called "virus" in school, I'm sure)
Valora (I sort of like this one)

By Jane in another life (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:54 PM

It's too terrible! I might be the only person in the US with this name! (a little quick Googling lets me know there's a few people with it in South Africa, though. huh?)

But mashups for the next generation--I could call a boychild Dwilip, or maybe even Phwight! So exciting! and then Loyce, or Jinda. Lyce? Jonda? Fantastic! Sign me up.

What else--I could've been Fayora. Or as a boy, Frant.

I am Phwightened.

By Guest (not verified)
December 10, 2009 3:55 PM

Due to naming laws mash-ups are not possible in German-speaking countries and I'm not so sure if I'm actually sad about it. For example - according to the grandma-mash-up my daughter's name would be a mixture between Gertrude + Maria. Marrude, Martrude, Gertia, Garia? No, thanks.

December 10, 2009 3:55 PM

haha! jane in another life--you are cracking me up.

By Kristen R. (not verified)
December 10, 2009 4:17 PM

I love how everyone is making their own mash-ups! So fun.

By moll (not verified)
December 10, 2009 4:18 PM

I commented this on the mashup post on Ask the Name Lady, but the name mashup trend ran rampant in my family tree about a century ago, in multiple-great aunts and uncles. The real-life results: Johnita. TessieBelle, and - the kicker - MerceAnn. The names being honored were nice - John, Tess, Annabelle, Mercedes, and Anne. But the results? Eep! SO pleased that my parents didn't name me Kathresa or Theraye!

By Kristen R. (not verified)
December 10, 2009 4:18 PM

Er, I mean, I love it in the comment section! Not in the vampire or human worlds!

By Guest (not verified)
December 10, 2009 4:20 PM

There is a photo of a couple with their newborn daughter in today's New York Times. The baby's name is Elliot Jayne. (my husband's and my names, minus the "y.") They could have named her "Jelliot," or, for that matter, "Ellayne."

By Philippa The First (not verified)
December 10, 2009 4:22 PM

Oh Guest, I'm not wild about mashup names either, but I'm happy they're at least legal! Gertia seems doable.

By Birgite (not verified)
December 10, 2009 4:40 PM

Hee hee! My son would be Magildo (sounds like a magician, The Great Magildo!)

My daughter would be Linber? Linrit? Berda? BERLIN!!!

Magildo and Berlin. Wow!

I am just wiping tears of laughter here.

December 10, 2009 5:10 PM

I think I've mentioned here before that I know a guy named N@son--parents N@ncy and J@son!

When I first heard his name, I thought it was Nathan but that he had a lisp. :)

By Guest (not verified)
December 10, 2009 5:18 PM

I vote an end to the term 'kre8tiv' on this board. It's totally overdone on naming boards and there's just something mean-spirited about it as well.

By Liz & Louka (not verified)
December 10, 2009 5:30 PM

Well, my daughter would have had it easy - Patricia. Her grandmothers have the same name. If she'd been a boy, we could have done Jedward, Joward, Eohn, Edohn ...

December 10, 2009 5:53 PM

My mashup name is great. At first, I figured I'd end up named Jonrique, but realized that there was another, more manly mashup out there that would sound just fine decades ago.

My name is Enron.

(My sister would come out... Better? Solethy? Dorodad? I'd choose Dorada.)

My son would be... Johnhard? No. Gerohn? Perhaps Geron. Probably Jerard. Bleh.

My daughter would be... Micarun? No, that's a cookie. Gudaela has a pretty sound (G'day, la) but an ugly spelling... Might as well finish naming her Gudaelav. Then, she needs no introduction.

December 10, 2009 6:12 PM

I think its interesting how everyone who is playing with mashup names is sticking with male-male for boys, and female-female for girls. Why can't the combo of my grandfathers (Joseph & Herbert) be a girl named Jobert? Or, why can't I take Grandma Dora and Grandpa Joe and get a girl named Jora or Doe, or a boy named Hanseph (nn Han) after my paternal grandmother Hannah, and my maternal grandfather Joseph?

I had a friend in college named Arlaine, after her parents Arthur(??) and Elaine.

By Guest (not verified)
December 10, 2009 6:22 PM

To continue with sjscher's thought, a friend of mine recently had a baby girl whose middle name is Luray--a mashup of g-g'parents Lucille and Raymond. First name Pip3r-J0y, for those who are interested.

By Anna S (not verified)
December 10, 2009 6:39 PM

Falcon, Taylor, Renesmee... hmm? Maybe it's me being European and all, but these names are not obvious NOTY 2009 winners to me. They're noteworthy, yes, but they're just not in the same category as Katrina (2005) and Barack Hussein Obama (2007). I would even rate the Palin childrens' names (2008, 2nd place) higher on an all-time NOTYish scale. Maybe 2009 was a 'slow names year' with several runner-ups but no real winner? Again, this is just me and my personal opinion from the European side of the pond.