As a child, I hated my last name because it rhymed with “burp.” But I had it easy compared to Taco B.M. Monster and Yolanda Supersad, just two of the 64 entries in the 2011 Name of the Year competition.
It’s pretty simple and pretty brilliant: instead of filling out a March Madness bracket with college basketball teams, do it instead with hilarious (and real) names that you encounter both in person and on the Internet. That’s the premise of Name of the Year, whose previous winners include Tokyo Sexwale (2001) and Courage Shabalala (1997).
Last week, I had the opportunity to ask one of NOTY’s founders, who goes by “stw,” a few questions about NOTY’s beginnings, current popularity, and who this year’s winner should be (for what it’s worth, my money’s on Ebenezer Noonoo).
In the Blogspot bio, it says NOTY was created in 1983? How did you do it pre-Internet?
Oral tradition, like The Iliad. Actually, we found names in newspapers and magazines, or on hack licenses (Excellent Raymond!), and the High Commissioner collected them in a manila folder on his desk. For the first 15 years or so, the dozen or so members of the High Committee — mostly college buddies; we started doing this as sophomores — would gather once a year, usually on the Friday night of the NCAA regional semifinals, play a basketball drinking game, and elect a NOTY. In 1998, a Committee member had the brilliant idea of a 64-name tournament bracket. We kept it mostly to ourselves until 2007, when we started the blog as a repository for the NOTY archives and then decided to open voting to the public. It was like Dylan going electric.
(Author’s Note: for more information on NOTY’s history, please click here.)
Have you noticed NOTY becoming more popular as the years have gone on?
Is Vanilla Dong a first-ballot Hall of Namer? About 300 people voted in the final in 2007. We had more than 8,000 for some rounds last year. But I think we could have hundreds of thousands — the art and science of names is studied by academics and appreciated by the masses. Everyone loves a great name — and everyone has different criteria for what they consider a great name (alliteration, double entendre, punctuation, meaning, rhyme, sheer impossibility, dick jokes, etc.). To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart’s remark about pornography: You might not be able to define what makes a great name, but you know it when you see it.
How many of the names are user-submitted? How do you prove they’re real?
Even in its dotage, the High Committee still manages to spot a few names on its own. But certainly the Internet and the blog have transformed NOTY. In the pre-web days, just about every name that we and a small circle of NOTY friends unearthed made the ballot; in the ’80s and ‘90s, we typically had 20 or 30 nominees a year. This year, we received more than 500 emailed nominations, with around 350 distinct, verifiable names.
The Internet has obviously made verification easier. (A few years back, we verified the name Honka Monka with a phone call.) We ignore nominations that begin, “I went to school with…” If we can’t find more than a Facebook page, that name gets tossed, too. We really try to ascertain that all names are real, through multiple links. When we hit the motherlode — a nominee who talks about the derivation of his or her name — well, that’s a big smile. These days, if we get burned, it’s usually because a name turns out to be a nickname (like 2010 nominee Peachy Trader) or, say, a made-up film-credit name (Dick Smallberries Jr., also in 2010)
How are the seedings agreed upon?
Three or four members of the High Committee meet at Walker’s, a bar in TriBeCa, eat burgers, laugh for three hours, whittle the field to 64, and settle on at least the top seeds.
Who do you think should win it this year?
We gave Monquarius Mungo, a guy in South Carolina arrested for skateboarding, presumably someplace he shouldn’t have been skateboarding, the top seed overall, No. 1 in the Bulltron Regional. But our seeding feelings often prove fleeting. Plus, the Bulltron is stacked; Florida bank-robbery suspect and No. 2 seed Courvoisier Winetavius Richardson, and technology executive and No. 9 seed Rockwell Bonecutter are getting a lot internet love. We think Dragonwagon Regional No. 2 seed Taco B.M. Monster, who’s an academic, should go far. And we wouldn’t rule out the Chrotchtangle Regional No. 1 seed, South Carolina bridesmaid La’Peaches Pitts.
Have you heard from anyone whose name is one of the selections? Were they upset or flattered?
We’ve had both, though more flattered than upset. We had a running conversation with the High Committee’s NOTY choice in 2009, Destiny Frankenstein, a former Kansas softball player, who openly lobbied for votes. 2008 finalist Iris Macadangdang was a good sport about her nomination and we think eventually came around to appreciate the spirit of our venture. We’ve also heard from people who were less than thrilled, and in one case we removed a name from the ballot. We really intend no malice.
What’s been your favorite name of all-time?
Assumption Bulltron, hands down. It just has it all: elegance, toughness, cadence, meaning and absurdity. He’s a NOTY legend.
Josh Kurp really wants to name his child Nohjay Nimpson Kurp.