“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
That quote comes from the Romeo and Juliet tragedy written by William Shakespeare. The gist of the story is that Juliet was not allowed to associate with Romeo because he was a Montague. The two lovers’ families were apparently life-long enemies.
Juliet believed his name was meaningless.
And yet if he had had any other name, the ending would have been different, I am guessing.
Most people have some idea of their name’s meaning. If not, there are millions of websites where folks can look up names and their origins.
For example, when I looked up the name Anita, I found out it is the Spanish version of Anne. It reads that in Biblical times Anita was derived from the name Hannah, which means full of grace. It is also the name of the Iranian Water Goddess.
Considering my fair complexion, freckles, once-blond hair and unmistakable southern accent, that information turned out to be doubtful to say the least. But I would love to be guilty of being graceful.
Now while it might be awesome to be named after a Goddess, I know that is all just hyperbole because I have personal knowledge of where my name came from.
According to the woman who gave it to me, namely my Mama, she got it from the television. From a woman named Anita Bryant, the orange juice lady.
Considering Bryant was a singer, entertainer and right-wing activist, the theory that names mean anything goes right out the window.
While some people do find my work entertaining, I personally cannot carry a tune and no one who knows me would ever accuse me of being a right-wing anything.
Historically some names have become synonymous with other things.
Cleopatra is often used to define someone of beauty. Mother Teresa is recognized as someone who is a caregiver to the less fortunate. A person of great wealth could be a Rockefeller and a tragic lover could be a Romeo. Calling someone a Scrooge could mean they are grumpy and stingy.
Recently we have started using names to describe patterns of behavior.
BBQ Becky called the police on a Black family for having a cookout. Angry Kyle is a young man who consumes a lot of energy drinks. Social Stacy is online 24/7 and never gets off her device.
Probably the most recognizable of pattern name calling is Karen. We have heard it everywhere and there are even memes for it.
In 2017, a man went on a Reddit rant about his ex-wife named Karen who received custody of their children and possession of the family home.
The name suddenly became synonymous with pushy behavior. And then along came Central Park Karen.
Central Park Karen reportedly threatened and fabricated accusations against a Black man after he politely asked her to put her dog on a leash.
Karen has become widespread when referencing a middle-class white woman, who sports a bob haircut, and exhibits behavior that stems from a sense of entitlement.
Karen is associated with the kind of person who demands to “speak to a manager” or the police in order to report workers or people simply going about their business.
Coronavirus Karen is the type who refuses to wear a face covering in stores, refused to quarantine and thinks the pandemic is a hoax. On second thought, she might just be a Republican politician.
Kroger Karen blocked a woman’s car so she could not leave the grocery parking lot because of the way she was parked.
Whitefish Karen coughed on a couple when they called her out for not wearing a mask.
Brawling Karen got into a fight at Red Lobster on Mother’s Day because she had to wait too long for her food.
Bakery Karen hurled a racial slur at an employee in front of her bi-racial children at a local bakery.
In recent months, we have seen the male version emerging. His name is Ken. I wonder what Barbie would think about that!
Whatever the reason, the name is becoming more recognizable. And not in a good way.
Karen was a perfectly good name before it began getting a bad rap. There is a real possibility that we could see people lined up outside the courthouse holding name change forms to disassociate themselves from the blemish.
In 1965, Karen was the third most popular baby name. Recent information from the Social Security Administration shows the name is now ranked as the 830th most popular girl’s name.
There must be a way to end this madness. There is only one question that remains unanswered.
Who do we need to speak to about this?
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.