As a professor, I’m dealing with charts every day — charts I’m reading in published scientific papers that help reveal some great mystery of the universe, charts I’m writing up on a chalkboard to help students understand a theoretical concept, charts I’m shaking my head at as students painfully attempt to explain that their data means something. That’s beyond all the standard graphics thrown at us each day to try to make information more easily digestible and try to make it appear that some nothing has substance.
With all the different forms of charts thrown around, you get drawn towards the types you favor most. And you see enough, it’s pretty easy to rank them:
Mazes are easily the most artistic and simultaneously potentially the most meaningless. But if it’s done right, well, you’ll be just so delighted to find them on your diner placemat that you’ll straight up ignore the terrible blind date across the table from you.
But probably the most widely loved and openly embraced are brackets. They overwhelm an entire country for a month each year, people united in obsessed characterizing and critiquing and postulating harmony.
Which, of course, leads us to multitude of different brackets created for every possible purpose — society voting on favorite movies, forcing cake and pie to face off against each other, even evaluating punctuation.
But there’s a single bracket that I long for every year, eager to ponder over and appreciate and fill out: The Name of the Year bracket.
Started by a group of friends when they were in college, eventually shared with the public, which grew to allowing everyone else to vote on the bracket and help select the overall winner — it is easily my favorite thing on the internet.
I don’t just enjoy it because of the quality of actual people’s names that appear in it — from past brackets, Destiny Frankenstein and Spaceman Africa are topnotch, no doubt — or for the purpose of scoffing at the ridiculousness of some and praise the unique greatness of others. No, I love the NotY bracket because it provides me the best fake names to use as needed.
For example, my advisor in grad school used to force me to give poster presentations for various functions, which, hey, is part of the job. Unfortunately, I’d usually get a last second notice that I would need to present, which usually led to me making the poster at midnight for three hours so I could turn around and stand by it for an uninterested public after four hours of sleep. My only real response that I could muster to show my feelings on how it had gone down — again — was to take the “Hi, My Name Is ______” nametags and write in a name from the NotY bracket.
Hence why a “Jeremiah Kilimanjaro” once gave a poster presentation at Cornell.
So while there’s a public voting on the NotY bracket each year, I mainly fill it out with glee and happiness to not only tip my hat to the greatness of some names, but to also help select the backup name I can pull out if need be. We can all come across fantastic names in our day-to-day lives — I mean, there’s a “Sicnarf Loopstock” who’s a baseball prospect — but when someone is kind enough to assemble a giant collection of names for you, and the put it in an ideal chart form? How can you complain?
So, come along! Maybe you’ll disagree with me entirely! That’s your prerogative. Feel free to go ahead and vote in the actual bracket, either way. Meanwhile, read on and revel with me.
THE BULLTRON REGIONAL
Some name choices are pretty easy: Curvaceous Bass (1) is an amazing name, no matter the quality of a Denver Beanland (16). Similarly, while Harlene Freezer (9) is pretty solid, Mingus Mapps (8) is a step above — alliteration and a unique name that can be pulled off if you introduce yourself with deep sincerity.
Chubacca Hung (5) vs. C’mon Wingo (12) presents a much closer challenge: surely, pop culture dictates that Chubacca has to get the vote, but the beauty of C’mon as a first name (even if pronounced Simone) combined with the striking last name of Wingo is enough for me to prefer C’mon over Chubacca. It doesn’t hurt that you could probably pull off the latter in public. And while Dr. Diddo Diddens (4) has not only alliteration but also a doctorate, there’s real perfection when you get a great name from a unique first name, a strong last name, and an additional normal hyphenated last name. The combination is ideal, so Che Cockatoo-Collins (13) gets my nod over Dr. Diddens.
Genghis Cohen (6) has that fantastic mix of uniquely bizarre and utterly normal, as opposed to the solely more almost-too-odd Erby Ferby (11). Bullabeck Ringblong (3) hits you more than a Vanthana Xayarath (14). Some names are just perfect, like a Radiance Ham (7) even in comparison to a Dequarium Lumpkin (10). Bufus Dewberry (2) vs. Bernie Wagenblast (15) isn’t particularly notable in either direction, but I’ll lean toward Bufus just to make a choice.
Working forward, Curvaceous would leave me pretty torn in comparison to C’mon . . . I’d rather just vote for both, but I’ll lean toward C’mon. Genghis Cohen vs. Radiance Ham is the type of decision that comes down to me anticipating a future fake name tag, and I can probably pull off a Genghis better than I can a Radiance. Left with Genghis or C’mon, I’ll take the guy who wrecked imperial China and wrecked a sporting goods stores in San Deimos.
THE SITHOLE REGIONAL
First and foremost, Dr. Loki Skylizard (1) is just a better name than Remco Obertop (16). But if you look into how Dr. Loki actually got his name? His parents allowed him and his sister to change their names at age 8 if they wanted to — and of course, an eight-year-old would pick a name that an eight-year-old would love. That he stuck with it straight through his doctorate is perfect.
Sterling Lovelady (9) has more ring to it than Sedan Angry (8). Same deal with Wolfgang Grape (5) as opposed to an Orion Creamer (12). Meanwhile, sometimes I think some names only make the bracket because of the imagery that immediately comes to mind, which I’ve never really cared for — so I’ll take a Bibb Strench (13) over a Bamboo Dong (4).
Jazzmar Clax (6) vs. Ingo Findenegg (11) . . . I want to vote for the German plankton researcher, but Findenegg is just too weird of a last name. On the other hand, Shamus Beaglehole (3) just sings when you say it — and would you not love to introduce yourself to someone at a bar with that name? Sorry, Wubbo Ockels (14). Another great unique hyphenated name in Ignatius Babbage-Hockey (7) (son of a Joe Hockey!) makes me smile more than Diesel Daigle (10). Jetsy Extrano (2) vs. Jetta Disco (15) is another throwaway matchup, but I’ll support Jetsy.
Further on, I throw my vote to Dr. Loki over Wolfgang, and Mr. Beaglehole over Mr. Babbage-Hockey. Leaving us with Loki up against Shamus — and while I don’t think anyone could possibly argue that Shamus Beaglehole is a better name than Dr. Loki Skylizard, and if I were voting on quality would certainly support Loki, Shamus is the exact reason I go through this bracket. I’m greatly looking forward to wearing a fake name tag with Shamus on it in the future.
Let’s be fair: a 16-seed is never supposed to beat a 1-seed. So there’s just some gross negligence on the part of the seeding committee here, because Handful Pour (16)? How is that not just an unbelievable name? Goodbye, Karhonda Porcha (1).
Tumpsey Speeks (8) up against Equanimeous St. Brown (9) doesn’t overly sing in either favor, so the tiebreaker goes to the individual with a “saint” in the name. Tertius Zongo (5) — truly memorable name AND a former prime minister? That’ll push it over Mahogany Barbee (12), although that’s a hell of a first name. “Polycarp” is the name of one of the earliest Christian martyrs, so it’s not a name that comes out of nowhere; team it up with an alliterative last name, and I’ll take Polycarp Pengo (13) over Bubbles Chwat (4).
Unique Mayo (11) is, well, rather unique, which is just enough for me over cookbook author Poopa Dweck (6). And while Precious Wingo-Waller (3) is lovely and impressive and alliterative, the basic simplicity combined with brazeness of Maverick Couch (14) rattles around in my brain and leaves me smiling. Bonus points for having worn a “Jesus is not a homophobe” shirt to school and winning a legal battle to wear it!
Jagger Slippery (10) is a name you want to overlook at first, but you just keep coming back to it, while Jigme Thinley (7) is more easily glanced over. As to Dr. Eve Gruntfest (2) and Ginger Pinholster (15) — when in doubt, side with the doctor.
From there, Handful Pour may sting of a parent getting cute at a child’s expense, but it’s so overly memorable I’ll side with it against Tertius Zongo. Maverick Couch and Jagger Slippery is so utterly even that I fall back on the “What name could I pull off in the right scenario?” rule, and Maverick Couch — as a full name — would probably be just a little too unbelievable upon first meet. Finally, Handful may be great, but Jagger has been building up steam in my heart, and would let me be someone you could take home to meet mom.
Alkapone Cruz-Balles (1) . . . do we really need to go further? Goodbye, Becky Lecky (16). The use of the ‘qw’ in the overall Jerqwinick Sandolph (8) is kind of lovely, as compared to the quick-hitting Shitavious Cook (9). D’Olajuwon Swanks (5) is truly a beautiful name from start to finish, but the simplicity and uniqueness of an Soviet Howie (12) hits the ideal characteristics that I look forward to in the NotY every year. Soviet Howie gets my vote.
When repeating sounds, three of a kind beats two pair, so I have to take Fawaz Wazwaz (4) over Fuifui Moimoi (13). As before, when in doubt, take the doctor; Dr. Xerxes Mazda (6) gets over Kodiak Yazzie (11).
Norman Bevis Many Fingers (3) is an aboriginal name from Canada, so it’s not quite as strange as you may have immediately thought; either way, it’s more impressive overall than Fuzzbee Morse (14). Sometimes names just seem like they tried too hard, though, so as awesome as a name like Airwrecka McBride (7) may be, I’ll opt for the more simple Chillie Poon (10). Finally, Squeegee Santillian (2) . . . alliterative, utterly unique, remarkable sounding last name — I’ll take it over Kermit Rainman (15).
Rounding out the regional, when in doubt, take the doctor — but even so, Xerxes is a tremendous first name that smacks of history and mythology, so I’ll take Dr. Xerxes over Squeegee. And — as may be apparent — I am a sucker for simplicity combined with greatness, as much as I admire the full “Alkapone Cruz-Balles”, I side with Soviet Howie. From there, the simplicity drives Soviet on over Dr. Xerxes.
THE FINAL FOUR
And at last, my personal Final Four. If you’ve been playing along, there’s no way that you came to the same results as I did. That’s kind of the point. What makes the NotY bracket so great is not that you have the opportunity to admire all these individuals for their names, as well as appreciate the complex combination of language, cultural backgrounds, and creativity, but that you have the opportunity to find out for yourself what speaks to you in a name. It’s not like we’re actually forcing these people to fight each other! That’s something we’ll save for the dystopian reality show future.
So in my bracket, anyway, we’re left with the semifinals of Genghis Cohen vs. Shamus Beaglehole, and Jagger Slippery vs. Soviet Howie. In all cases, a mix of simplicity in one name and striking uniqueness in the other, combining together for the perfect match. The first matchup forces you to answer if you prefer your uniqueness in the given name or the surname — and as much as I love the name “Shamus” regardless of the last name (reminder to self: name a future pet “Shamus”), the striking character coming in at the first name is my personal preference. Thus, Genghis over Shamus. In the other matchup, I’ll opt for the slightly more subtle Jagger instead of Soviet. And in the final . . . there’s just too much beauty in the combined “Genghis Cohen” for me to say no.
Thus, my personal Name of the Year victor. And a terrific Final Four of names that I’m glad to have as fake fallbacks.
Now, I just need to be forced into a poster presentation at the last second again . . .