Technically Technologically Inspired
December 21, 2011 § 8 Comments
Author Laura Wattenberg revealed the number one name of the year at Slate.com late last week, compiled from readers, commenters, and followers of her site, The Baby Name Wizard. Runners up to the name of the year were Pippa and Mark Zuckerberg (an Indianapolis bankruptcy attorney was booted from Facebook on suspicion of fraud because he shares his name with the site’s founder). But this year, Siri owned the day.
Siri is Apple‘s voice-recognition search-engine software, used by millions of iPhone users around the world. Tell it to call your wife, it calls your wife, ask it what the weather’s like in Miami, it finds you the forecast. A handy type-free search engine is definitely the wave of the future, and the name of the device caught on this year with parents and name nerds alike.
Siri is a name of various origins – it’s a Sanskrit word for “God’s gift of love; wealth,” Swahili for “secret,” and Scandinavian for “beautiful and victorious.” It’s from the Old Norse name Sigrid, from sigr (victory) + fríðr (beautiful, fair). Wattenberg explains that Siri is parallel in Scandinavian popularity to Annie in the English-speaking world – it’s also charted in South Australia. American author Siri Hustvedt is best known for her 2003 novel What I Loved. Siri Mullinix was the goalkeeper for the US women’s soccer team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Actress Shiri Appleby has starred on cult TV hits Roswell and Life Unexpected. (Shiri is Hebrew for “my song.”) We were also briefly introduced to the name Siri when former MTV VJ Carson Daly announced he had a son named Jackson James with his girlfriend Siri Pinter in 2009. And what about Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who inspired the name of Dweezil Zappa’s daughter Ceylon Indira? The former Sri Lankan Prime Minister was the world’s first female democratically elected leader.
As iPhone software, we hear a name on our everyday, life-altering, life-affirming gadgets, which it makes it top of mind. But it works in various ways – Apple Martin, for example, wasn’t named for the company that at the time had produced the trendy iMac computer and was a few years away from unleashing the iPhone on the world. Her parents named her after the sweet-sounding fruit, with Gwyneth explaining on Oprah after the birth, “It sounded so sweet and it conjured such a lovely picture for me – you know, apples are so sweet and they’re wholesome and it’s biblical – and I just thought it sounded so lovely and … clean! And I just thought, ‘Perfect!'” Turns out they were inspired to use the name after friend of theirs chose it for their own daughter (and reportedly got permission for name-sharing!) But the company was top of people’s minds aside from the food itself, and Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s name choice was ridiculed because of it.
Even Steve Jobs named his company for the fruit – after an apple orchard he worked on as a kid in Oregon, and because it’s always beneficial to name your business something that already has recognition in people’s minds – they’ll remember you easier. Jobs and Steve Wozniak believed so much in their company name that they soldiered on despite being on the wrong end of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of law suits from Apple Records, the Beatles’ original London-based imprint.
Siri, though, was a name first, so the technology reference is subtle, and it’s fair to assume that for most people into it, the gadget isn’t the inspiration behind the baby name, just like Apple.
Then there are the names directly inspired by humanity’s consumption of technology, like the Israeli couple who named their daughter Like – which doesn’t mean anything in Hebrew. Or the Egyptian man who named his daughter Facebook in honour of the people’s uprising earlier this year, which was largely organized through the social networking site. Or footballer Gabriel Zakuani, who named his son Trendy, after Twitter. Choices like these aren’t exactly on the verge of catching fire, and remain a novelty at best (or at it’s worst!)
I like Siri. I think it’s both soft and striking, but there is clearly a line when it comes to technology influenced or inspired names, and that line exists because it’s not always easy for people to live their lives with a name people are already familiar with. Like being Mark Zuckerberg, but not the Mark Zuckerberg, or people always asking you “Are you named Siri like on the iPhone?”
But Siri still isn’t quite as synonymous with technology as Facebook or Trendy, so it skirts the issue while propping up the trend. I think it’s inevitable this trend will continue as technology continues to massively affect our lives, and it will be interesting to see where it goes – just like technology itself!