High noon for Gary: why is the once-popular name on the verge of extinction?

Gary Lineker

The name is dying out, and not even Garys Cooper or Lineker seem capable of saving it. Why do parents hate it now, and what can we do about it?

Age: Most likely in his 50s or 60s.

Appearance: Rarer and rarer.

Sorry, which Gary are we talking about? All the Garys. Everyone called Gary. The Human Garynome, if you will.

I won’t. But I get the picture. What’s happening to them? Is there a new deadly virus that only attacks Garys? Thankfully, no. But at the end of the day, the Gary is only human, and not enough new Garys are being created to replace the ones who die.

Why not? Parents just don’t like the name any more. Gary reached its peak in the US in the early 1950s, when it was at one time the 12th most popular boy’s name, with more than 38,000 appearing every year. There were even 90 girls named Gary in 1947.

Many of them no doubt in homage to Gary Cooper. Ah yes, one of the all-time great Garys, (though he was actually born a Frank). In the UK, the peak came later, in 1964, when Gary was 16th on the list.

And what’s the situation now? Desperate. Gary has plummeted from view in both countries, and is now severely endangered. Just 450 were created in the US in 2013, and 28 in the UK. Numbers will be swollen slightly by some of the more relaxed Gareths and Garths, but they too are endangered species. On current trends there may be no new Garys within a decade or two, and none left alive by the beginning of the 22nd century.

Habitat loss. Is that what we’re talking about? In a way. There are still some very well-known Garys of course, such as Lineker, Oldman, Barlow and Kemp.

Although that is basically a list of men who had their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. Exactly. Overexposure around that time has harmed many great names. In 2013, UK parents created just 17 Roys, 15 Keiths, seven Kevins and three Traceys.

Three! I’m afraid so. Compare that with 110 Jaxsons, 167 Romeos, 2,211 Siennas, 3,264 Leos and 4,511 Oscars.

So we’ve basically become a nation of losers. I blame the cocktail umbrella! I thought you might.

Do say: “Is it time to establish a small breeding population of Garys in London zoo?”

Don’t say: “That would be cruel. Garys must be left free to roam in the wild.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by , for The Guardian on Tuesday 10th March 2015 15.01 Europe/London

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