We all know her. We’ve seen her ranting in Trader Joe’s after being asked to wear a mask, screaming for the manager in an airport, and calling the cops on a Black birder for threatening her even if he clearly wasn’t — then suing her former employer, who fired her after the incident, for discrimination. She’s Karen. No one wants to be Karen — and apparently, not as many people want to name their kids Karen either, the Huffington Post reported.
Based on Social Security Administration data, Karen was the 831st most popular name in 2020, down 171 spots from 2019, per the Huffington Post, the lowest it’s been ranked since 1927. Before it became synonymous with “white woman who calls the cops on Black people,” Karen was the third most popular female name in 1965, the outlet said, when close to 33,000 newborn girls were given the name — about 100 times as many as in 2020, when only 325 were named Karen.
Dictionary.com traces the rise of Karen as an insult to Black Twitter, where it emerged in the 2010s. At first, Karen came to mean a middle-aged white mom with a “speak to the manager” haircut, the website explained. Fast-forward to the pandemic, and Karens gained notoriety for not only weaponizing their whiteness against BIPOC, but being anti-mask, anti-vaxx, and anti-science, aired out on meltdowns caught on video for the world to watch in cringey, collective horror.
The Huffington Post noted that Karen has been dwindling in popularity for a while now, meaning that we can’t conclusively blame its most recent decline to its evolution into an insult. But the outlet said the name’s association with, frankly, white supremacy, probably didn’t help. I mean, come on — would you name your kid Karen? In 2021?
All of this kind of sucks for women who are actually named Karen, but it’s worth noting that before Karen, there was Becky, and before Becky, there was her antebellum forebear, Miss Ann, as NPR’s Code Switch explained. While Karen might remain an insult for a while, the podcast said, it’s probably only a matter of time before another name gets its turn. Her name might change, but I have a feeling that entitled white woman who can't mind her own business will be around for a long time.