So it doesn't get confused with Windows Task Bar. (or so I've been told)
It's still a weird name. When I talk about notifications, I think about some sort of information bar, which tells me that everything is running fine or that the weather is going to be so-so tomorrow. On the other hand the Notification Area is a central control element for quite a few applications, e.g. Amarok, Skype or Pidgin. There is no other obvious way I can open the contact list in Skype without hitting the icon on the Notification Area.
Meh, I'm not complaining, but calling it "Control Area" or "Application Control Area" would actually make much more sense. Then again, I might be wrong, but having tried out every other utility before the Notification Area, whilst trying to get it back, does sound somewhat unintuitive.