Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Sweet Sixteen

[Cross-posted at Deadspin.]

We had a polling malfunction last week; the Bulltron and Sithole polls inexplicably closed early. Our bad, and thanks for letting us know on Twitter so we could re-open them; we might not have caught the error otherwise.

Rejoice: the Sweet Sixteen is upon us, and so far it's been quite a ride. Almost half of our remaining contestants are seeded ninth or lower, and many of our mightiest -- including two top seeds! -- have fallen. Bufus Dewberry is gone. Alkapone Cruz-Balles and Bullabeck Ringblong, too. I'm still a little salty about Dr. Diddo Diddens going down. Rest in peace, D-man.

I can't complain too much, though, because Diddens' conqueror Chubacca Hung encapsulates one of the reasons I love Name of the Year as much as I do – it’s about the stories. You've already heard one of this year's best in the post about Sithole powerhouse Dr. Loki Skylizard, who picked his own name at age 9 or so and has worn it through his career as a thoracic surgeon.

Chubacca's story goes beyond one name. She came to our attention via a 2004 article in the South China Morning Post about Hong Kongers who were "turning from mundane monikers to colourful handles such as Hillbilly, Rainbow, Onion, and Chlorophyll." The trend is right up our alley, and continues to this day: a friend who teaches in Hong Kong tells me that he's had students named Chicken and Kungfu. In addition to being full of excellent names, the article is insightful and well worth a read:

"It reveals something about how Hong Kong's young people see their identity,' [sociologist Annie Chan Hau-nung] says. 'They don't identify themselves 100 per cent with the English-naming western tradition, and they don't identify completely with the Chinese tradition. There's this space in between where they can be independent from tradition and construct their own identity. That might be something unique, given the special social, political and historical context of Hong Kong.'"

All English words are potential names. Their meanings are preserved, given the prevalence of English in Hong Kong, but the context is utterly different. Often, words are chosen as names largely for what they are at their most basic level: a combination of letters, syllables, sounds. "'I've never come across another Chubacca,' Hung says. 'It's special.'" Indeed. And actually quite mellifluous, if you haven't been conditioned since age 5 or so to equate it with a 7-foot-tall hair monster. Or maybe, given worldwide familiarity with rainbows, onions, and Star Wars, Hong Kongers are simply more welcoming of names with other meanings. Maybe the use of a familiar but non-native language defuses any self-consciousness that would otherwise surround those meanings. Any way you cut it, this sort of thing fascinates us at NOTY HQ.

Anyway. I could go on longer, but you're here for the voting section: where Daigle battles Beaglehole, where Many Fingers meets Poon. May the best names win. Voting over at Deadspin ends tomorrow at 5 o'clock Eastern; see you on the flip side.

#1 Curvaceous Bass vs. #5 Chubacca Hung
#10 DeQuarium Lumpkin vs. #11 Erby Ferby

#1 Dr. Loki Skylizard vs. #12 Orion Creamer
#3 Shamus Beaglehole vs. #10 Diesel Daigle

#9 Equanimeous St. Brown vs. #4 Bubbles Chwat
#6 Poopa Dweck vs. #2 Dr. Eve Gruntfest

#9 Shitavious Cook vs. #4 Fawaz Wazwaz
#3 Norman Bevis Many Fingers vs. #10 Chillie Poon