Has the Karen meme actually reached parents?
According to the popular website BabyNames.com, the name ‘Karen’ is losing popularity as a baby name, and fast. Baby Names Podcast co-host Jennifer Moss said this of the formerly hugely popular name: “In the past six months, we’ve had zero people adding it to their favorite name list [on the site]. It goes to show that there’s definitely a stigma attached to the name. We had people adding it until six to seven months ago.”
But why was the name canceled? Is it because of the popular moniker, “Karen,” to describe white women calling the cops on people of color for minor problems like barbecuing in parks without permits, existing in public spaces, or playing music? Or is it because names often go in and out of fashion? It seems like it could be a combination of both causes, per Moss.
After all, the name was massively popular for thirty years — from the 1940s to the 1970s and only dropped out of the top 200 most popular names in America in 2008. That suggests that while the drop in the usage and popularity of the name has been somewhat precipitous, it was already on the downswing before it became associated with white supremacy and white feminism. In fact, a significant part of the drop in the popularity of the name may actually be associated with a Dane Cook sketch that aired in 2005 that talked about the “Karen” of your friend group — the one that nobody likes — and a simultaneously popular series of Reddit posts that one user wrote about his ex-wife, per The Conversation and She Knows.
Add that to the popular usage of the word to describe people like Amy Cooper, who called the cops on Christian Cooper, a black birder in Central Park, and you have what Moss, the podcast host of Baby Names, describes as “mass association,” when everyone has an understanding or agreement of the meaning of a name. It’s like Beyoncé, or Oprah, but bad.
It may be some time before Karen becomes a popular name again — and we do feel bad for those who are named Karen. But, of course, one day there will be a generation of middle-aged women in the future who may be named something like “Lucy” or “Sophie” who become the new Karens. We’ll just have to wait and see what name takes its place.