The American Name Society is accepting nominations for Names of the Year, with the winners to be announced at the society’s annual meeting in Boston on January 4, 2013. Anyone can play; submit your nominations no later than January 1.
Here are my own picks in the categories established by the ANS.
Blue Ivy. The daughter of Jay-Z and Beyoncé, born January 8, was destined to make headlines because of her celebrity parents. But her unusual name – “Blue” because it’s Jay-Z’s favorite color, “Ivy” for the Roman numeral IV (maybe) – also guaranteed the spotlight. In October, Jay-Z and Beyoncé failed to get trademark protection for “Blue Ivy”: a Boston events planner had beaten them to it, in 2009.
Higgs. Scientists at CERN announced in July that they’d discovered a particle that behaves like the Higgs boson, aka the “God particle.” The particle is named for Peter Higgs, professor emeritus at the University of Edinburgh.
Jeremy Lin. The New York Knicks point guard had a sensational season, and his surname was turned into a string of puns, from Linsanity to Linspirational to Linderella. Ben Zimmer wrote in February about the Lin-guistics of Lin-sanity.
Kony. Joseph Kony, the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan guerrilla group, was the subject of a documentary film, Kony 2012, released in March. The film, produced by Invisible Children, Inc., went viral; it was seen by more than 100 million viewers within a week of its release. It also inspired a critical backlash. (Jen Doll includes Kony in her “2012’s Worst Words” roundup at The Atlantic Wire.)
Malala. First name of the teenage Pakistani activist who in October was shot by the Taliban for refusing to abandon her campaign for girls’ education. She is still recovering in a hospital in Britain.
Mitt. It’s possible that only the mother of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney ever called him by his legal first name. Romney was named for family friend J. Willard Marriott, founder of the hotel chain, and Milton “Mitt” Romney, a cousin of his father’s.
Trayvon. The fatal shooting of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin on February 26 inspired national protests and more than 2 million signatures on an online petition.
FiveThirtyEight. Nate Silver’s polling-aggregation blog takes its name from the number of electors in the U.S. electoral college. I gave my reasons for choosing this name (and nine other notable brand names of 2012) in my recent column for the Visual Thesaurus.
Gangnam. Did anyone not see the “Gangnam Style” music video this year? The monster hit by Korean pop star PSY takes its name from Seoul’s Gangnam District. On Language Log, Ben Zimmer wrote about a “Gangnam Style” spoof that featured linguist/political critic Noam Chomsky.
Gaza. Site of eight turbulent days of fighting in November between the Israeli and Palestinian forces.
Grey. The eponymous protagonist of the publishing phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels. “Young entrepreneur Christian Grey” is “brilliant, beautiful, and intimidating,” with “singular erotic tastes.”
Amy. There’s been a spate of “Amy” characters in recent novels, movies, and TV shows: The protagonist of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel Gone Girl. Laura Dern’s character on the HBO series “Enlightened.” The baby on NBC’s “Up All Night.” Anna Chlumsky’s character on HBO’s “Veep.” The American teenager in ABC Family’s “Secret Life of American Teenager.” Mayim Bialik’s character in CBS’s “Big Bang Theory.” Rebel Wilson’s character (actually called Fat Amy) in the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect. “Amy” hasn’t been a top-ten baby name since the 1970s, when it was ranked #2 in the United States; I’m guessing the creators of all those Amy characters were also born in the 1970s – and grew up in a sea of Amys.