Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 31st column, he reviews the ANS Names of the Year.
Pandemic and politics dominated names last year, along with the rest of our lives.
This year, like most organizations, the American Name Society (ANS) held its annual meeting online. On Jan. 24, ANS voted COVID-19 and Kamala as co-winners of the Name of the Year – the first time ANS has had a tie, fitting how unique 2020 was!
ANS chooses Names of the Year for Place Names, Artistic-Literary Names, Personal Names, Trade Names, ENames and Miscellaneous Names before picking the overall Name of the Year.
COVID-19 won the Miscellaneous Names category. On Feb. 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced “COVID-19” as the official name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It’s short for “coronavirus disease first recognized in 2019.” Certainly no name, not even created until six weeks after a year started, has ever dominated the world’s consciousness as COVID-19 has.
Kamala was a nominee for Personal Name of the Year. The first name of our new vice president, Kamala Devi Harris, became an issue when U.S. Sen. David Perdue of Georgia referred to her as “KAH-mah-la, or Kah-MAH-la, or KAH-mah-la or Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever,” at a Trump rally on Oct. 16. This mockery, considered racist by many, led Perdue Foods to issue a statement pointing out the senator had no connection to them, and was widely perceived as one reason why Perdue was forced into a runoff with Jon Ossoff in the November election. He lost the runoff on Jan. 5. Kamala, pronounced “Comma-lah”, is a Sanskrit name meaning “lotus,” inspired by the Hindu heritage of Shyamala Gopalan, Harris’ mother.