For years, if one of my friends or family members were to say, “You’re such a Karin,” it might mean that person had displayed a feat of such uncommon clumsiness it rivaled one of my graceless moves. It could also suggest someone was guilty of slipping a disproportionate amount of their dinner to whatever hopeful, hungry critter might be lurking nearby, or that they tended to fall asleep minutes into a movie, or wear objects of clothing inside out or mismatching shoes, or leave a trail of reading glasses behind in their wake.
These would be Karin trademarks, so while being called a Karin wasn’t exactly a compliment, it was still a far cry from what it has become. Now, it’s a shortcut to saying someone is middle-aged, obnoxious and entitled, with a propensity for demanding to speak to the manager.
Hardly a week goes by these days without someone forwarding a fresh Karen joke.
Two Karens are having lunch together. The waiter stops by and asks, “Is
- anything OK?”
- How many Karens does it take to screw in a light bulb? One. She holds the bulb in the socket and expects the world to revolve around her.
- Why did Karen press Ctrl+Alt+Delete? She wanted to see the task manager.
- Why do Karens make lousy robbers? Because they refuse to wear a mask.
In a New York Post article, Suzy Weiss said the “K-name” has been co-opted to call out the kind of woman who is apt call police to shut down a kids’ lemonade stand because they don’t have a permit, and the name has become so entangled with pop culture that it’s taken on new meaning.
Karen isn’t the first name to have a particular meaning attached. Something similar happened with other names, too, albeit to a lesser degree.
For instance, if you describe someone as a “Kyle,” you’re essentially saying they’re overly fond of energy drinks, prone to punching holes in drywall and obsessively watching extreme sports.
Calling someone a “Chad” means the guy is hyper-masculine with a chiseled jaw and bulging muscles. A “Stacy” is hyper-feminine, yet generally oblivious of her own sex appeal.
Chiseled. Hooked on Red Bull. Oblivious of sex appeal.
To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of my name. My parents had originally planned on naming me Vera after a little girl Mom befriended while they were stationed in Germany. But instead of being born blond-haired and blue-eyed, like my mother and Vera, I was dark-haired with dark eyes, like my dad. The name didn’t fit. But there happened to be a nice nurse on the maternity ward named Karen, and voila!
I was named. Just with the German spelling.
So all these years I’ve passed with one of the most generic of all names, and then suddenly became a Barbie — except along with No-Permit-for-the-Lemonade-Stand Karen, there’s also Racist Karen, Anti-Vaxxer Karen, Anti-Masker Karen and Toilet Paper-Hoarding Karen. Each comes with her own little cellphone, preloaded with the manager’s number.
While doing some simple research, I learned that — according to mynamestats.com — there are currently over 1.4 million Karens (or some variation of the spelling) in the U.S. today.
Our numbers are great enough that with a bit of organization, we could form our own country. We could call it Karennation, or Karennia, perhaps. Although our first real order of business would be to agree on how we’re spelling our name.
Next comes our motto. Here’s the one I’d propose: ‘Tis better to be thought a Karen, than to ask for a manager and remove all doubt.