For a long time Mary was the most popular female name in America. According to Social Security's list of most popular names for the past hundred years, Mary was either the first or second most popular name for a newborn female, going back at least to 1914, and up through 1965.
However, today the rank of Mary as a name has fallen to No. 152 -- ahead of Amy and Rachel, but behind Norah and Natalia -- although a variant, Maria, comes in at No. 80. Perhaps Mary has come to be seen as too ordinary, too plain, to run-of-the-mill.
(Guess what the most popular name is for a newborn girl in 2014. The answer's below -- but don't cheat!)
My grandmother on my mother's side (born c. 1880) was named Mary. When she went to name her daughter, my mother (born 1912), she wanted to name the girl after her; but also wanted something perhaps a little more sophisticated. So she gave the name a little French twist and named my mother Marie.
When my parents had their first child, a daughter, (born 1942), they named her Mary Elizabeth. (My dad's mother was Elizabeth.) But again, they wanted something just a little different. So they called her Marybeth.
That didn't work for my sister. She did not like the name Marybeth, so at some point in her young adulthood -- either in college or shortly after -- she changed her name to Marcie. Everyone now calls her Marcie, except of course for my other sister and me. She changed her name 50 years ago. But we still call her Marybeth.
The very first girl I kissed -- this was in 7th grade, walking up the hill from junior high school, coming home from a dance -- was my next-door neighbor, who was named Merry. "Not Mary," she told everyone with a roll of her eyes, appalled that people would think that she had so plain a name. "It's Merry, short for Meredith."
I haven't seen or heard from Merry in 50 years. So I don't know if she's changed it to Marcie or Marie or something else by now.
Now, drum roll please . . . the most popular female name for 2014 is: Emma.
Anyway, to all a
Here's "Let It Be" a song that Paul McCartney wrote after dreaming about his mother, Mary McCartney (born 1909), who died in 1956.