Wednesday, December 24, 2014

There's Something About Mary

     The name Mary is loaded with significance. To begin with, Mary was the mother of Jesus, and so we honor her on Christmas day.

     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 Mary -- I mean Merry Christmas. Meanwhile, B and I are on our way to Pennsylvania to see B's mother for a couple of days. She was born in 1916. Her name is . . . you guessed it, Mary.

     Here's "Let It Be" a song that Paul McCartney wrote after dreaming about his mother, Mary McCartney (born 1909), who died in 1956.


DJan said...

I would NEVER have guessed Emma! My younger sister is named Mary Katherine, and has always been call Markee by the family. Her husband and fellow co-workers call her Mary, though. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Tom! Glad to have you in my blogging family. :-)

Tabor said...

Have a safe and happy trip!

Lee said...

I wonder if there is a study of middle names...When I was having children in the 80's and 90's, everyone gave their girls the middle name Marie.

Welcome to Pennsylvania. Be sure to bring rain gear and Vitamin D.

Mac n' Janet said...

No Mary here, but Marie is my middle name.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, Tom.
Aloha from Hawaii.
I have 2 daughters:
Maria Clara
Lisa Mary

June said...

Not since my father's mother, Mary Louise, has there been a Mary on either side of my family . . . and only one Mary on Husband's side . . . his mother's cousin.
I think it's time for the pendulum to swing back toward traditional names. I'm glad Emma's a popular one, although it means it'll just turn into another Heather...

Stephen Hayes said...

I hope you get to your destination safely and have a very Merry Christmas. Take care.

Olga Hebert said...

Have a safe trip and a Merry Christmas.

Linda Myers said...

My 14-year-old granddaughter's name is Mary Elizabeth Jane: Elizabeth for her great grandmother and Mary Jane for, well, a relaxing leisure activity. I'm not sure Mary knows that, though.

Safe travels to PA. And Merry Christmas, Tom.

Anonymous said...

One Mary in our family - my paternal grandmother, born 1884. One of my husband's sisters had a middle name of Marie. No Emmas; but, both members of the youngest generation (born 2010 and 2011) are boys!
Cop Car

Anonymous said... just occurred to me that Grandmother Mary's mother's middle name was Maria.

Janette said...

I am a middle name Marie.
June, my father's mother was Mary Louise! My mother's mother was Ursula Marie. Both born in 1896. I sadly miss the tradition of being named from your family tree.
My granddaughter is Zoie. My newest grand Niece is Emerson Monroe! ( not family names- especially for a girl :)

Anonymous said...

I am a Mary, going to catholic school was something else at least 20 in a class I have used my middle name for years, Mary Jane and yes Washington and Colorado you can buy Mary Jane legally, but I never get that at all, I am a baby boomer worked the summer of 1967 like hell to get to graduation of college, no Mary Jane for me too much bills and too many books to buy tuition was practically free and California universities great, now it takes a person about 5 to 7 years to graduate in the state I was born California and most don't live and stay there, one cannot purchase a home even if one makes $60,000 a year annually sad sad, plus it is a desert now and most people work for below minimum wages making it impossible to live well, Washington we have the highest minimum wage come jan 1st it is nearly $10.00 an hour of course Seattle Washington the jewel of the entire state it would take over $24.00 to $27.00 a hour to even think of buying a home in King county so they are raising wages there to $15.00 but one can only hope can't they, Happy New Year, enjoy your trip, my hubs people from PA but he hated them and they were horrible to him too, too cold and rural and not too nice but it sounds like you have loving family there lucky you..ciao!

Anonymous said...

Great post Tom. I love the McCartney song. Mary is my first name. My parents named me after Pagan goddesses, so the priest added Mary the day I was Baptized. Another name,Teresa, I think, was added for my Confirmation. (You know thats how Catholics end up with so many names.)

I have a friend whose dad likes the name Rose (she's Texican-American...Mexicans say when you smell roses, Mary is near; "real" rosaries are made with rose petals). Each of his six girls are named Rose as in Rose Ann, Rose Maria, etc.

No Emma in our family, just names from the Bible. Hannah, Jacob, etc.

Unless the ancestor came from Germany, then we get a Mary or Jakob. The early Protestant Scots and English ancestors are Patience, Prudence, Temperance, Faith, Hope, Charity,etc. Mary is so Catholic.

Bob Lowry said...

Safe travels, Tom and here's hoping your special Mary is doing well and has good year ahead of here.

Sunshine said...

I am sure that Mary will become popular again. We have four women named Mary in our family. Emma is also a rather old-fashioned name that has regained popularity. Another popular name in our family is Kathleen and Katherine.

Madeline Kasian said...

In my Italian family "Madeline" is the family name.There are one or two in each generation, and in each family, and I am proud to be one.Loved this post! Names are important! Emma is a nice comfy name.. unlike some of the strange and trendy names of the past few years..

And Mary and Marie will always be classic.!

Dick Klade said...

Really enjoyed this post. Very clever and entertaining. But Emma? That one just doesn't ring my chimes. What have new parents become?