name of the year

Who Will Win the 2020 Name of the Year?

Illustration: Dennis Clark

Name of the Year is a bona fide internet tradition, so when NOTY co-founder Stefan Fatsis asked Vulture to host the final rounds of the 2020 tournament, we just had to say yes. Today, the championship matchup.

The 2020 Name of the Year Tournament field of 64 we-swear-they-are-real names is down to two: Mathdaniel Squirrel and Courvoisier Dingle. You can vote in the championship final here. To help with your decision, the people behind Name of the Year and some friends gathered to break down the match-up, the tournament, and what makes a great name.

Dan Wachtell: For better or worse, our finalists came to us through reports of youthful indiscretions. Courvoisier Dingle was kicked off his college football team after being implicated in dorm-room theft. Mathdaniel Squirrel was sentenced to 72 months in a carjacking. As a defense attorney, I want to note that Dingle now appears to be back in school. And Squirrel, based on his lawyer’s sentencing memorandum, which I read, had a really rough childhood.

Stefan Fatsis: 2015 finalist Lancelot Supersad Jr. also made an inspiring recovery from hard times. It’s not unusual for unusual names to filter up through bad news. Bad news gets covered. Bad news features lots of Local Men and Area Women, often with magical names. This year we would not have learned of Gimadiah Scrogum if not for a story in the Branson (Mo.) Tri-Lakes News. Another reason to support local journalism.

Drew Magary: I would personally like to thank the Tri-Lakes News for injecting some Scrogum into my life. As for Mathdaniel, I’m hoping that both “Math-” and “-daniel” catch on as word roots. Mathjim, Mathella, Ledaniel, Ausdaniel… things of that nature.

Fatsis: Mathdaniel Squirrel sounds like something NOTY fan Mike Schur might have invented for a minor character on Parks and Recreation. It’s total Dada. A seemingly random noun (math) attached to a Biblical name (Daniel) plus a… squirrel.

David Roth: I always appreciate a name that has a legible process behind it. Mathdaniel looks to me like the happy resolution of a debate between “Matthew” and “Daniel.” It’s just nice to see everyone get what they want.

Fatsis: Oh my god. Matthew. You condition yourself to see the absurd, but even when it winds up entirely obvious it’s remarkable nonetheless. I am proud, not an idiot, for thinking “mathematics” and not “Matthew.”

Wachtell: Mathdaniel Squirrel was a top seed. But Courvoisier Dingle made it through as a lowly No. 14—knocking off, among others, Carmelo Mustaccio, Billyjack Buzzard, and Beanbag Amerika. What did we get so right about Squirrel and so wrong about Dingle?

Marc Handelman: Courvoisier Dingle was perfectly seeded. People aren’t drinking the expensive stuff now. On the other hand, Dr. Welcome Bender, who lost to Dingle in the quarterfinals, was a name for the times. I’m surprised he didn’t advance further.

Chase Jackson: Saddling Dingle with a 14-seed was wrong. Sure, we once had another Courvoisier. But NOTY has a strong tradition of legacy names. We’ve had multiple Tacos, multiple Waffles, multiple Popes, and multiple Cashdollars. Why not multiple Courvoisiers? Courvoisier Dingle is a perfect blend of high and low. He’s a tuxedo with a pair of Chucks. A set of spinning rims on an ‘88 Civic.

Sam Gutelle: I thought Providence Cowdrill was a perfect blend of high and low and she didn’t even make the final 64.

Dennis Clark: So many names, so few slots. What are people seeing in Dingle that I’m not? You’ve got the retread first name. And Dingle isn’t one of a kind, either. Wikipedia enters six different Dingles. Together the first and last name are amusing, but NOTY champions eat amusing for breakfast.

Fatsis: Yes, like Chicago Bears linebacker Barkevious Mingo (2008) and former Kansas softballer Destiny Frankenstein (2009) and Canadian hockey player Jimbob Ghostkeeper (2018). Even accounting for recency bias, this was a very strong field. Any of the Elite Eight could have won it all. I was shocked that Beanbag Amerika was trounced by Dingle in the Final Four.

Wachtell: Beanbag Amerika is a name change. And while there’s a long history of name-changers in NOTY—like children’s author Crescent Dragonwagon—it’s not hard to see why he might have been divisive. Voters might reasonably prefer candidates born with greatness to those who’ve manufactured it.

Handelman: We live in a country of laws. As Bean told us, it was a legal name change and he made it 25 years ago. It’s not like he changed his name specifically to win Name of the Year.

Roth: I was delighted but also a little chastened to find that Beanbag Amerika follows me on Twitter. It gave me some pause to imagine him being like, “Oh nice, Drew and Dave getting together to talk about the Name of the Year bracke… oh no.” He seems like a pretty excellent dude overall and I wish him nothing but the best.

Clark: Usually when there are upsets in NOTY, we have some understanding of why. Personally, I thought Bluebell Eikonoklastes and Rayne Schwinghammer were better names than Kokain Mothershed, who outlasted them into the Final Four. But I get the love. Having the same first name as a Schedule II drug is funny. A mother-referencing surname is *chef’s kiss*.

Magary: I won’t tolerate ANY disrespect for Kokain Mothershed, my favorite imaginary Russian death-metal band. Also it was my children’s favorite name in the bracket.

Handelman: At least whoever wins this year will be worthy. Unlike last year. Pope Thrower shouldn’t have gotten past Princehoward Barbecue Yee in the first round. I sometimes wonder why we let The People vote at all. And not only for names.

Magary: Says someone who’s never experienced the ecstasy of throwing a fully-enrobed pope down a flight of stairs. So many of these names hit different when you say them out loud. And what happens in the voting is that people vote for names that look the funniest, but don’t necessarily sound the funniest once they leave your filthy little mouth. Pope Thrower was one of those names that, out loud, lived up to its upside on paper.

Fatsis: There’s an elegance in the Ronco-product name. Simple and uncomplicated, like this year’s entrant Mickey Mental, who could have played center field for the Gas-House Gorillas.

Wachtell: I’m picturing Hanna-Barbera creatives around a table deciding between Yogi Bear and Mickey Mental.

Roth: Pope Thrower worked best for me because it sounds like both a specific thing and someone trying and failing to recall what that thing is and kind of groping their way towards it. What I’m imagining is 1) a (notional?) device that you’d use to heave a pontiff over some battlements during a medieval siege and 2) someone who’s had four beers trying to find the phrase “Vatican Catapult” and coming up with, “like, you know the thing, the uh pope thrower?”

Magary: Dingle, even though it has “dingle” right in it, didn’t quite do that, which is annoying because that’s me sniffing my own farts and dismissing a really fucking funny name. But the bracket gives you license to be picky, and to sneer when chalk picks like Beanbag Amerika advance instead of worthy dark horses like Eileen Strong O’Boy. That’s why Kokain Mothershed is my champ, baby. Say it with pride.

Fatsis: Kokain Mothershed told his college newspaper that he was named for his grandfather, who was called “Daddy Koke.” “My family, I guess, got it from him,” he said. Kokain Mothershed is a name you need to say in full.

Roth: It has that good sound to it. My favorite names have that musicality, some hidden aspect that gets unlocked as the syllables start to pile up. Jimbob Ghostkeeper was very much one of those for me. Last year there was an also-ran name, Deicide Huxtable, that I still periodically say aloud to myself the way that you might whistle a favorite song.

Wachtell: My Deicide Huxtable is Habakkuk Baldonado, a Pitt football player who somehow lost in the first round a couple years ago.

Fatsis: Maybe they would have fared better if they’d had a title. “Dr.” and “Rev.” are PEDs for names. There were four doctors in this year’s field, including quarterfinalist Dr. Reason Machete, who, because life is sometimes perfect, is a math professor.

Roth: Courtesy titles are absolutely a cheat code. One of my favorite recent names, Dr. Narwhals Mating, is a changed name. And while I agree that there’s something sort of unfair about that, I absolutely can’t gainsay Dr. Mating’s postgraduate work. You can change a name at a courthouse, but you need to get your ass in the library if you want to earn that doctorate.

Clark: The best names shine without titles, and our championship final proves it. Mathematics/Matthew/Daniel, a squirrel, a brandy, and whatever a dingle is. [Editor’s note: A dingle is “a small wooded valley.” Or slang for the penis.] Each name, first and last, stands on its own beautiful merits.

Gutelle: Mathdaniel Squirrel deserves this. I’ve never seen anything like that name, ever, and I get the feeling that none of you have either.

Dan Wachtell is a Brooklyn-based lawyer. Stefan Fatsis is an author, podcaster, and NOTY co-founder. Drew Magary is a columnist for @GENMag and the author of Point B. David Roth was an editor at Deadspin. Marc Handelman is a New York lawyer and NOTY co-founder. Chase Jackson lives in Denver and is just happy to be here. Sam Gutelle is a writer currently based in Oxford, Ohio. Dennis Clark is a film and television editor in New York. Follow Name of the Year on Twitter and vote in the final.

Who Will Win the 2020 Name of the Year?