That’s probably smart money, and I’m regretting my oversight.
“Sandy” is linked to two separate 2012 disasters, both of which occurred in the last quarter of the year. The first was Hurricane Sandy (aka Superstorm Sandy, Frankenstorm Sandy, or Bride of Frankenstorm), which smashed into the East Coast in late October. “Sandy” came from a storm-name list created by the World Meteorological Organization. Since 1979, the WMO’s lists have included male and female names in alternating alphabetical order, omitting the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z. (See the name lists for the next five years at the National Hurricane Center’s website.)
As a personal name, “Sandy” may have sounded old-fashioned to a lot of Americans. Its popularity peaked in the 1960s, when, according to the Baby Name Voyager, it ranked #167 among girls’ names. When you search “Sandra,” from which Sandy is often derived, the trend is even starker: Sandra was hugely popular in the 1940s, peaking at #6, and remained in the top 100 through the 1980s before falling steeply. The best-known “Sandy” today, other than the hurricane, may be the female lead in the Fifties-nostalgia musical Grease, played in the film version (1978) by Olivia Newton-John. Sandy can be a male nickname (Sandy Koufax, Little Orphan Annie’s dog), but it’s more often associated with a certain pert, wholesome, mid-20th-century female archetype: think of perennial Peter Pan Sandy Duncan, born in 1946.
(I found it interesting that many of the other girls’ names on the 2012 hurricane list were similarly Forties- and Fifties-ish: Betty, Patty, Debby, Joyce, Leslie. I suppose you have to reach back that far to find unambiguously girly names: today’s baby girls are likely to have androgynous or traditionally male names like Taylor, Sawyer, MacKenzie, and Maxwell. Compare anachronistically named Susie in the “lemonade-stand” Verizon Wireless commercials, played by a young actress with the trendily androgynous name Lennon.)
The other 2012 Sandy is, of course, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were massacred on December 14. This Sandy is a descriptive word modifying “hook,” a geographical term for a curved spit of land.
Two devastating Sandys in two months: That’s a lot of attention on a familiar-sounding yet out-of-the-mainstream name. It could be the deciding factor in January’s Name of the Year vote in Boston.