When I was in college I had a good friend whose name was Nancy Smith. Which is a rather common name.
Nancy’s dad was Jim Smith, also a common name.
Jim was a PR exec who did a lot of travel for his work.
He found that his generic name was often a common one used by non-Jim Smith’s who were checking into hotels for clandestine extramarital affairs or other reasons when they didn’t want their true identity known.
Jim had a brilliant idea, which was, “What if a big group of legitimate real-life Jim Smiths checked into the same hotel at the same time? What would happen?
And with that idea, he started The Jim Smith Society in 1972 in Camp Hill, PA. It’s still going strong today.
The Jim Smith motto is “We don’t shun fun!” The hotel they used for those first years of Jim Smith Society meetings was the Allenberry Resort.
Back in the 1970s Mr. Smith got this started by using telephone directories at the library to find as many Jim Smiths listed as possible, and he mailed them post cards.
I can only imagine that first gathering of Jim Smiths, all checking in separately at the same hotel saying “I’m Jim Smith, I have a reservation.” How do you keep it straight as to which Jim Smith is in which room?
I only met Nancy’s dad a couple of times, but I remember him as a really fun out-going guy. Figures, after all, he worked in Public Relations.
It makes me wonder, what kind of fun things could any of us start, based on nothing more than our names?
In 2020 Southern Living magazine published an online article listing names that could become extinct. Carol, my name, is one of them. Seems not many people are naming daughters Carol any more, and those of us who are still around are getting to be of a certain age.
The most famous living person named Carol is comedienne Carol Burnett. She’s 89 years old. Songwriter Carole King is 80 years old, but she can’t be included in my list of Carol’s because she spells her name with an e on the end. Carol and Carole are two different names even though they sound the same.
I’m hard-pressed to think of any other well-known Carols still living; regardless of whether the name is spelled with or without the e. Carol Alt, the former model and actress comes to mind. She is now 62.
In the 1950s, when I was born, there were 222,649 girls born named Carol. It was the 16th most popular name. I guess this means my name is old-fashioned and out-of-date. Perhaps there’s hope. Other old-fashioned names have had resurgences in popularity. Or maybe the grandchildren of people named Carol will embrace the name when they grow up and have children, and use the name Carol.
It bothers me that my name may become extinct. Makes me wonder why. I have always liked my name. When I was in high school I was one of three Carols in my small class of only 64 students.
In doing a search about it, I discovered that 1 in every 21,184 girls born in the U.S. in 2021, from the total 1.8 million girls born that year, were named Carol. That is only 84 out of the 1.8 million girls born that year, so not that many.
In 2019 there were 112 girls born named Carol; in 2020 it dropped to 100. So the decline in choosing the name Carol continues. At that rate of decline, the name will disappear before the end of this decade.
Which brings up another thought to me. It has been one of my pet peeves my entire adult life.
It is that women lose their full names and identities because of marriage. It’s not right. It shouldn’t happen. Men get to keep their birth-given identity all their lives. Women don’t.
It is impossible for me to look up old female friends on the Internet because I’m not certain what their last names are. Imagine trying find my college friend Nancy Smith now! When I Google that name I get 158 million possibilities.
When I first married in 1972 I became Carol Robertson. When I married a second time in 1978 I became Carol Aubitz. In 2014 I married a third time and became Carol Guild. But the people who knew me before all this marrying happened know me as Carol Goodling. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to link all those last names as the same person.
It’s time to get rid of that custom so women retain their same identity throughout their lives.
Which goes back to the fact that the name Carol is associated only with women of a certain age right now. And at some point, any new generation of Carols will be a very small one. Maybe the fun thing I can do next year is reach out to other Carols and start a campaign for preserving our shared name. I know I won’t live forever, but I certainly don’t want to be extinct someday.
“They say we die twice. Once when the last breath leaves our body and once when the last person we know says our name.”Al Pacino
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