Each year at its annual meeting, held in early January, the American Name Society announces the most notable names of the previous year. I’ve already picked my brands of the year, but names of the year are selected by different criteria. So here’s my ANS-qualified list, which uses ANS categories and criteria: linguistic innovation, potential to influence language use, and ability to capture national attention. “Popularity or notoriety is not deemed important,” says the ANS.
Before I present my own list, I want to recommend the Namerology blog’s recent post, “The 2019 Name of the Year Is Karen.” In case you hadn’t heard, Karen is being used as a mocking slur against a certain type of Generation X white woman—insensitive, self-absorbed, even racist and/or homophobic. “The use of a given name as a slur for a demographic group is simultaneously more general and more personal,” writes Namerology author Laura Wattenberg. “It invalidates people wholly and indiscriminately.” Curiously, Karen peaked in popularity not during Gen X but years earlier, during the peak Baby Boom years. As Wattenberg notes, “Gen X can’t seem to step free of the baby boom’s shadow, even to be insulted.”
In these three American cities, at least 32 children and adults were killed by three shooters in a single week, 23 of them within just 13 hours over the weekend of August 3 and 4. While attending a garlic festival. While shopping at Walmart. While socializing in a popular entertainment district.
I’m exhausted and angry—furious, actually—and can’t think of anything original to say about my compatriots’ sick obsession with firearms. So I’ll refer you to a couple of posts from the Fritinancy archives.
Have I really been writing this blog for four years? Why, that’s an entire presidential term. In blog-years, it’s more like a geologic period, punctuated by occasional earthquakes in the form of TypePad upgrades. (I now compose posts in Windows LiveWriter and export the content to TypePad. More better. Thanks for the tip, AgateGal!) I’m somewhat stunned to report that the post you are reading is my 1,416th and that I’ve published 3,622 of your comments. (OK, so a few of the comments were my replies to your comments.)
A bit of history for those of you who have crashed the party just for the cake*:
I’ve written three Simpsons Brand-o-Rama posts—essentially lists of fictitious brands used on The Simpsons. It’s unlikely I’ll produce a fourth, so I recommend you take advantage of the close-out sale on existing inventory. Here’s the first Brand-o-Rama; links to the other two are at the bottom.
Three posts account for the most traffic over all four years: How the Tiguan Got Its Name, The IKEA Naming System, and Put on a Suit and You’ll Look Cute, the last being my consideration of “bikini,” “skirtini,” and all the other aquatic -inis. (Most of the searchers who land on that last post aren’t interested in linguistics or women’s fashion; they’re looking for pictures of pubikinis. Sorry to disappoint, fellas.) For some reason, How to Name a Golf Course remains popular as well. Are that many golf courses actually being developed?
Yep, it was three years ago today—June 8, 2006—that I published the first post on this blog, which was then called Away With Words.
Later that day I published the first real post (the first one was just an introduction). It was titled "Name That Cage," and you can read it here. (It looks like that cage ended up being named Au16-. Meh.)
I wrote my first post for this blog on June 8, 2006, which means I'm approaching my cotton anniversary (although I'll accept cashmere as a substitute). Here are some highlights of the last year, organized by category for your browsing convenience.
Names and Brands
This December post on the IKEA naming system is my most-visited post ever. Someone Dugg it, someone else posted it on Reddit, and one day in February, to my amazement, I had more than 59,000 page views. (That's laughably small if you're Gawker or Jezebel, but extraordinary for Fritinancy. For comparison's sake, on an average day I have about 400 page views.) It's a little embarrassing, because I was just passing along a link I'd discovered in David Byrne's blog.
In February I changed the name of this blog. If you're just joining us, here's the whole story. (If you're not just joining us, you can read it anyway.)
I had a lot of fun analyzing some of the company names in the news at last year's TechCrunch40: Xobni, Cake Financial, 8020 Publishing, and more.
Simpsons Brand-o-Rama, my attempt at a list of all the fictitious brand names in "The Simpsons," drew a record number of comments. Simpsons Brand-o-Rama 2 is in the works; look for it later this month!
I worked really hard on Every Woman a Queen, my exploration of brands with "diva" in their names, so give it a read, dammit.
People are still finding Airport Name Game through Google searches. I dunno, should I switch to a quiz-a-day format? Answers to that particular quiz, by the way, are in the following day's post.
Another post that took a long time to research and write, but was very satisfying: backward-spelled brands, also known as ananyms.
I started this blog one year ago, and 399 posts later, to my ongoing amazement, I'm still at it.
It seems appropriate to celebrate by (a) taking a semi-holiday and (b) publishing a list of favorite posts--yours, mine, and Google's. And I hope you make it all the way to the end, where I write about a movie I urge you to see.
And speaking of D-Day, I want to tell you about an extraordinary documentary now playing in the Bay Area (and perhaps elsewhere): The Rape of Europa. Based on the book of the same name by Lynn Nicholas, it tells the story of the Nazis' systematic plunder and destruction of centuries of art masterpieces and the lengths to which local people--including some very courageous museum curators--went to protect and rescue those masterpieces. I've long been a bit of a WW2 buff, and I certainly was aware of Hitler's campaign against "degenerate" (read: Jewish) art, but 95% of the material in the film was new to me. Among the story's unlikely heroes were a tiny group of young American GIs--no more than 200 or so--dubbed "Monuments Men," who worked doggedly at the end of the war to track down and salvage the art. One of those Monuments Men was Bernard Taper, a former journalism professor of mine at UC Berkeley. Again: a surprise. I'd known Bernard as a gifted teacher and the author of a biography of the choreographer George Balanchine, but not this. How wonderful, and moving, to see him--now 89 years old and retired from teaching--interviewed on film.