Thursday, April 06, 2017

On the brink of extinction

We’re not talking the polar bear of mountain gorilla here. Not even the piping plover.

Still, who wants to see an article listing 36 once-popular names that are on the brink of extinction in the UK. And finding your name on it. And if it’s happening in the UK, look for it to be exported here next, sure as they export their sitcoms, game shows, and talent contests.

I believe that some of the names merit extinction.

Come on, who would name a baby Bertram, Ernest, Leonard, Dean, Doris, Clarence, Roy, Cecil, or Wayne?

I mean, Bertram? Has that name been used since P.G. Wodehouse picked up pen and invented Bertie Wooster and Gussie Fink-Nottle

Answer: No.

I don’t mind Len as a nickname – one of my friend’s husband is a Len – but Leonard has always been a dud in my book. Not quite as awful as Lionel, but right down there. I’ll bet you anything that Lennie in Of Mice and Men was a Leonard. Ernest I place in the same category as Leonard. A dull and deadly name.

Clarence is another pretty terrible name. And, sweet and harmless as Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent of Beany and Cecil fame was, this is a name that shouldn’t be given to anyone unless there’s a title and castle attached to it.

Let’s play a round of word-association: Dean-Martin, Doris-Day, Roy-Rogers, Wayne-Newton. No self-respecting parent making any of those associations would go ahead and register their spawn with one of these monikers.

The other male names on the brink are a mixed bag: Clive, Cyril, Dennis, Derek, Duncan, Geoffrey, Horace, Malcolm, Neville, and Nigel. One would have thought that Neville Chamberlain would have done the name Neville in way back in 1938. No peace in our time, and no Nevilles, either. But it apparently managed to hang on for nearly 80 years. But Clive and Nigel seem like perfectly fine British names. Duncan and Geoffrey, too. Derek has always struck me as sort of sleazy, but what’s wrong with Malcolm?

Dennis was a name I crushed on as a kid, even though the only kid I knew named Dennis was a quasi bully who was a few years older. (Side note: he became an ambulance-chaser in Florida. I only know this because, a few years ago, someone from Main South Worcester saw a post I did on Main South Worcester and emailed me. In the email, he mentioned that he had been friends with this guy.)

And Horace? How stodgy is that one? Horace Mann. Horace Greeley. And Horace Bolton, Judy Bolton’s brother in the 1930’s girls book series I hoovered up as a kid, even though they were pretty outdated by the time I got my hands on them.

Take away Doris, Wendy (too Protestant), Sally  and Tracey (too hip and happening), and the roster of girls names going extinct wouldn’t have been out of place on the class roster of any class I was in during grammar or high school.

Angela, Beverley, Carol, Debra, Diane, Donna, Elaine, Joanne, Paula, Sandra, Sharon, Sheila,Yvonne.

I didn’t actually have any Angelas in any of my classes. But I could have. One of my closest friends has a sister named Angela, and my father had a cousin Angela, who became infamous in the family for not stirring her stumps to drive from the Cape to Worcester during a blizzard to attend my father’s wake. Woe betide Angela H when my Uncle Charlie ran into the likes of her at the Stop & Shop a few months later.

Beverley was a sort of sad girl who was the foster child of a family in the neighborhood for a few years. Along the way I had friends named Carol, Diane, Donna, Elaine, and Joanne. And colleagues and/or classmates named Debra, Paula, Sandra, Sharon and Sheila. I had a babysitter named Yvonne.

And then there’s Maureen.

Oh, I’ve seen this one coming.

For years, it’s been a shock running into anyone under the age of 50 named Maureen. How did this happen? There were an awful lot of us in my high school class. Maureen D, Maureen P, Maureen Q, Maureen O… And then, all of a sudden, the name died in the water.

I have two cousins with daughters named Maura.

But Maureen?

I’ve never especially liked my name. I’d prefer regular old Mary. Or Maura – the same thing, but without the diminutive speared on the end. Or Elizabeth, my beautiful middle name. I should have re-invented myself when I had the chance.

Maureen can be a problem name. These days, unless you’re of a certain age or from an area with a lot of Irish-Americans, no one knows how to spell it. Murine? Maurine? Morene? Moron?

And most folks don’t know how to pronounced it, either.

Growing up, in a heavily Irish-American neighborhood, it was MAUR-een, which is pretty much how it’s pronounced in Ireland. But somewhere along the line it’s been Americanized with the stress on the second syllable: Maur-EEN. Which would be kind of like pronouncing Ricky as Rick-EEE, or Kathy as Kath-eee. (I will also note that my sister Kath was called KATH-leen as a child, but the more general current American pronunciation is Kath-LEEN.)

Although I was never that fond of my name, I hate to see it go.

I did see an ad the other day for Subaru that features an adorable Black Lab named Moe. Perhaps my nickname will have a second life as a dog’s name. Works for me.

Meanwhile, for those having and naming kiddos:

If you're looking for a unique name for your newborn, it might be wise to ignore suggestions like Arlo, Drake, Amelie and Kendra and opt for one from the list [of extinct names]. Source: Falmouth UK Packet.

And a Pink Slip thanks to my cousin Ellen – she of the ever-popular first name – who sent this my way.

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