First they came for the Garys: The sad death of old-fashioned names

It’s a sad time to be a Gary


The name Gary is becoming completely extinct.

Apparently, the name has been plummeting in popularity since the 50’s, and is now dominated by trendy Ollies, Noahs, Mohammeds and Jacks.

In 2013, only 28 boys in the UK were named Gary. In 1996, there were 235.

Soon enough, Gary Ballance, Gary Oak and Gary Glitter will be fond and not-so-fond memories, things of the past.


And for a community of young people with strong, old-fashioned, fusty names, the fabric of their lives is unravelling before them.

We spoke to some of the owners of those unfashionable names, to find out what it’s like to watch your way of life crumble and fall into the abyss before your very eyes.

Jocelyn “Joss” Wellings, is an Archeology second year at Queen’s University Belfast. He doesn’t understand why his parents chose to give him such an unusual name.

“It feels like in their search of a name they wanted some subtle way to uniquely punish their unborn child. To force him to spend five minutes explaining his name, and another ten explaining that it isn’t a girl’s name.”

Jocelyn is not a girl

Apparently Jocelyn was the name of a male Norman crusader. Like many others gifted with strong anachronistic titles, Joss is the only one in his family with an odd name. His brother is called Charlie. It must be a lonely life.

Despite this, the 20-year-old remains defensive of Jocelyn. He said: “I would never change it, it’s a fundamental part of who I am. The change one’s name would be the act of someone truly lost.

“It can be tedious at times, having to explain it when I meet new people. But on the plus side, people don’t usually forget it”.

There are others out there who hide from their granny and granddad names, who are ashamed of what they are. Jess Austin, a second year at University of Leeds says: “I have a few friends called Nancy. One of them even changed her name to Megan because she thinks it’s too old-ladyish.”

As Garys slide into oblivion, you can be sure that Geoffs won’t be far behind.

Geoff Hazelton-Swales is a Classics second year at UCL. He describes his name as: “A compromise – my dad had some rather more ridiculous names in mind that my mum flatly refused.

“My brother and I were both given fairly old fashioned middle names. He got Clifford and I’ve got Arthur Ernest.”

Classic Geoff

Despite the inevitability of his demise, Geoff Arthur Ernest Hazelton-Swales is happy with his strong name.

“I just embraced it as an interesting name,” he says. “Of course people assume certain things from seeing it, which can be annoying, but otherwise it’s fine.”

This is the fate of Garys, Geoffs, Jocelyns and Geralds. Thrown together with Nancys, with Ruths, with Yvonnes and Terrys, they’re doomed to compensate, to consider their names “interesting” or a bit “inconvenient”.

They are the last bastion of old-fashioned values, slowly disintegrating against swathes of Indigos, Faiths, Jakes and Zachs.

We stand with them.