Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Goodbye to "Gary": The death of a Christian name

When I was at primary school in the 1960s (jumpers for goalposts, isn't it?), the most popular Christian name among my fellow pupils (at least the boys) was Gary.

At least that is what I recall. The truth may be different, even accounting for regional differences. (I went to primary school in the Hertfordshire new town of Hemel Hempstead.

For the Independent tells us that Gary peaked in popularity in Britain in1964, when it was only the 16th most common name.

It also tells us that only 28 British-born boys were named Gary in 2013.

The reason for this rapid decline? The Indy suggests we look no further than the fall of the glam rock star Gary Glitter. We certainly don't want to be in his gang any more.

There remain two mysteries.

The first is that some point in the recent past, a sort of orthographical inflation took place. "Gary" turned into "Garry" and "Denis" turned into "Dennis".

It may be that the Independent has overestimated the decline of "Gary" by failing to search for "Garry" too.

The second mystery involves another Christian name. When I was at primary school, not only were there a lot of Garys: there were a lot of Darrens too.

But today you hardly meet a Darren. Why is this?

A friend and I once agreed, in a pub conversation, that they had all killed themselves in their Ford Escorts when they were 18, but there may be more to it than that.


DL said...

Maybe the move to Dennis was in honour of Dennis Bergkamp's arrival at Highbury!

Nigel Ashton said...

Rather worrying from my point of view is that Ashton is now more common than Nigel for boys names. Mind you, it does make the phrase "Taxi for Ashton" sound cool!

Anonymous said...

As someone from 64, I really can not recall anyone at school called Gary. r at university. I think you are boasting your proletarian roots - the Garys repaired the cars the Darrens pranged

Phil Banting said...

I associate Darren more with the 70's when it was popular alongside names such as Wayne and Jason. I can think of two Darrens, a current and a former work colleague, both in fairly senior positions, so it didn't hold them back.

When canvassing, the first names of the people in each household usually give a pretty strong indication of their ages. Having said that, a recent canvass card told me that a lady called Sharon was aged 108. Sadly there was no reply when I rang the bell so I was unable to disprove that unlikely claim.

Fashion aside, the number 1 criterion in choosing names for our boys (born 1989 and 1990) was that they should be easy to spell. I feel sorry for anyone with a name like Catherine whose numerous variant spellings are certain to be written down wrongly throughout the victim's lifetime.

Tom Barney said...

Is "Dennis" recent? Surely Captain Stanhope in "Journey's End" is Dennis and not Denis. (See also, if you don't know it, the novelisation of the play by Vernon Bartlett.)

Frank Little said...

Glamorgan supporters with a mixture of excitement and frustration remember Darren Thomas.

Phil Beesley said...

@Phil Banting: "Fashion aside, the number 1 criterion in choosing names for our boys (born 1989 and 1990) was that they should be easy to spell."

Is that a cue to play "A boy named Sue"?

I thought that Dennis always had two ens. I grew up with Blondie singing "Denis" as Den-ee.

Andrew Hickey said...

The reason Blondie sang "Den-ee" though was because it was a cover version of "Denise", and "Dennis", with one or two ns, wouldn't work.
Both Dennis spellings were current at least in the 50s -- Denis Bloodnok in the Goon Show was a single-n Denis, while Dennis The Menace (created 1951) has two ns, as did Dennis Wheatley, Dennis Wilson, and Dennis Potter.