Karen memes: Are all these jokes going to wipe out the name?
The name Karen has been losing popularity for decades, and the new hot meme of 2020 poking fun at the name certainly could cause the name to be completely unusable in the near future.
This wouldn’t actually be the first time for a name to become completely unacceptable to name a new human bundle of joy – we’re fairly certain you’ve never met a child named Adolf. Sometimes things happen and names become unusable unless you want a giant dark cloud to follow your child forever.
It’s starting to seem as if Karen might be the next name on the hit list.
Brief history of Karen
Karen was at its most popular in the year 1965, when it was the #3 most used baby name. It’s estimated about 32,000 babies were christened Karen that year. Ever since then the name has seen a decline in popularity, which is also not unusual. When a name becomes too common people tend to shy away from it purely to avoid confusion for their child or so as not to give the kid a boring name.
In 2018 approximately 614 babies were named Karen, which is a small lot, but odds are these parents are wondering if it’s too late to write something else on the birth certificate.
The name already was viewed as a relic, a name for older people, not children, and thus the name continued to see disuse – it’s also how the meme was born.
Inception of the memes
For a few years, the internet would use any number of names which could evoke the image of a too-angry soccer mom yelling at a Target manager about running out her child’s favorite PopTart flavor. Some (but certainly not all) of the names used were Susan, Tammy, Cheryl, and, of course, Karen.
These names were used when referring to theoretical people to make them seem more tangible. When complaining about anti-vaxxers one might throw in the sarcastic phrase “okay Susan” to better create a mental image.
Eventually, to create a clearer sense of understanding, the internet settled on Karen as the go-to for this kind of situation, and the memes followed quickly.
Karen memes in the pandemic
As the pandemic spread across the world the use of the Karen meme skyrocketed as young people became frustrated seeing people, including a number of middle-aged women, refuse to wear masks, claim COVID-19 is a government hoax, and other such ridiculousness.
While a lot of these instances of “Karens” throwing fits in Walmarts or taking part in maskless protests against lockdowns because they “want a haircut” included middle-aged women, most of them were not named Karen. The internet calls them this anyway and it infuriates them. Which, to the frustrated young people, makes it all the funnier.
Is the name doomed?
Possibly. Names sometimes become infamous, and Karen seems to be right on track to become entirely unusable. The name Parnell was used as a similar insult in the 1300s – this time meant to evoke the mental image of a person with loose morals – sometimes more specifically a priest’s concubine.
While most people may not know the association with the name, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to use the name and it’s been over 600 years. Yikes.
Names sometimes bounce back though. Bridget used to be unusable in the late 1800s and early 1900s – it implied stupidity or ignorance. Some women even changed their names. However, you can still find a few Bridgets today and nobody seems to find that unfortunate. So not all hope is lost for the name Karen.
Apparently even the name Lucifer is somehow making a come back. No, really, a couple in Britain named their child after the devil himself because they “thought it was a nice name”. They even had to go to court to keep it. (There are actually laws about what you can and cannot name your child in most places.) So, give the name Parnell another 1,400 years and maybe it will be back in fashion too. We’ll start the 2,000-year timer for Karen at the end of 2020.