I met a woman recently and introduced myself to her. “Hi, I’m Mark,” I said. “Hi, I’m Daryl,” she replied with a smile.
Say what now?
I resisted blurting out with every fiber of my being. I did do a quick, furtive check of my surroundings, though. I hadn‘t slipped in to The Twilight Zone — everything else appeared normal. Leaning in and tilting my head a little I did say, “Sorry?”
“Daryl,” she replied, clearly used to the need for such a confirmation.
That’s a boy’s name
, I thought. Again, with some degree of pride, I was able to suppress myself from saying it out loud. I know it’s not very “PC” of me to suggest, and I know it was wrong to think such a thing. Anybody can be named anything anymore. In America
, as I have come to discover, they frequently are.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that everyone should be naming their kids what might be considered by some largely unimaginative, “traditional” names. There are, after all, plenty of Elizabeths, Marys, Davids and Johns, etc. in the world already.
The U.S. has certainly assigned its fair share, with nearly four million American Marys, one-and-a-half million Elizabeths, almost three-and-a-half million Davids, and an impressive five million Johns by 2005, according to data from mongabay.com
When talking about “traditional,” one might imagine that a place like England
is nothing but wall-to-wall royal monikers, and reasonably so. But that is not the case. In 2014, only Elizabeth made the top 100 girls’ names at number 31 (sorry, Mary). David and John registered a miserable 58 and 98 respectively. “Traditional” has become a euphemism for “endangered,” when it comes to names
on either side of the pond.
But, in true frontier spirit, America has responded and started creating its own names! Now, confused relics like me stare blankly when introduced to a Raelyn, Brynlee, Tyce, Draven, Ryker, and the increasingly popular Arya — thank George R.R. Martin for that one. I’ll leave you to work out which are the girls and which are the boys, but does it even matter anymore?
My grandfather, who was about as much of an English gentleman as you can imagine, was called Aubrey — a fine, male name with roots in the middle ages meaning “rich and powerful, supernatural elf leader.” That’s a man’s name if ever I heard one!
So I was floored when I suggested to my wife nine years ago, as we were preparing to welcome our son in to the world, that Aubrey would be a great name for him and she responded “Sorry, but over here that’s a girl’s name.” If further evidence of unnecessary confusion were needed, I then suggested Logan – the name of the most feral, most masculine, most dripping-with-testosterone superhero in the Marvel universe, Wolverine! Nope. That too is more commonly a girl’s name in America, I was informed. My head began hurting, and it hasn’t stopped.
Since then I’ve met girls named Michael, Leslie, Bobbie and Shawn, and boys called Carroll, Frances, Tracy and Riley — no Sues as of yet. How is a poor sap like me supposed to keep from permanently presenting a look of one dazed and confused? I have no chance.
Daryl is boy’s name (per “The Walking Dead") and also a girl’s name (per “Ms. Hannah”). That’s that, and that’s OK.
I just need to stock up on Advil.
Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for the past 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer, hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.