How would you feel if someone told you your first name is so unpopular it will soon become extinct?
I can tell you how I felt: hurt. It's only human nature to take such news a little personally, even if, for most of my life, I didn't exactly love the name myself. But now to be told that the moniker Gary is going the way of the Crested Shelduck is a little hard on the ego.
According to the American website OurBabyNamer.com, there were only 442 baby boys given the name in the U.S. in 2013. It now ranks 578th. In the 1950s, at the height of the name's popularity, there were nearly 40,000 of us in the States. There isn't a national database of baby names in Canada, but one look at what's happening in British Columbia tells us this is a trend extending beyond the U.S.
In B.C., there hasn't been a baby named Gary since 2009. In 1965, there were 126, according to B.C. Vital Statistics. This is a phenomenon around the world. In Britain there were only 28 boys given the name in 2013, compared to 236 in 1996. It was a name that peaked in popularity there in the early 1960s, when it was the 16th most common name for a boy. (There have been girls named Gary, too, but not many).
Anyway, those are the cold, hard, dreary facts with which I must now come to terms.
According to the website Behind the Name, Gary comes from an English surname that was derived from a Norman given name, which was "itself originally a short form of names beginning with the Germanic element ger meaning spear." But most credit the American actor Gary Cooper for making the handle fashionable. The name Gary hit its height of fame in the U.S. in 1954 (it was 9th most popular), a year after Mr. Cooper (whose real first name was Frank) won his best actor Academy Award for his role in High Noon.
Gary was apparently the name of a kid in my sister's class at school. After I was brought home from the hospital, unnamed, my sister mentioned to my parents that she had a boy in her class named Gary. And that was that: I was Gary.
Growing up, I thought the name was okay. I didn't love it. There were much trendier names around, I knew that. I was also aware that no one who was perceived to be cool, like a current box office star or U.S. president or a big name athlete, was a Gary. That was disconcerting. Our most high-profile flag carriers were people I didn't really care for, like the diminutive actor Gary Coleman, who starred in the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. ("What 'chu talking 'bout Willis?" he would say repeatedly to canned laughter. Maybe that's why I didn't like him). Cool he was definitely not.
Then there was the actor, Gary Busey. Okay, stop laughing. There was also the British rock star Gary Glitter, who was okay for a while but then he really hurt the Gary brand when he became better known as a convicted child molester. Truth be told, the most popular Gary in recent years was SpongeBob's pet snail. What does that tell you?
I guess all good things must come to an end. In 2013 in the U.S., there was a list of 15 names that were only given to five babies including Barbra, which I'm sure has left the most famous Barbra in history, Barbra Streisand, as wounded and forlorn as I am. Others on that list included Elmo and Llewellyn, which maybe deserve to be.
Perhaps I should take solace in the fact that one of the more popular boys' names in the past few years is Mason. We'll see how long it lasts. To me it has fad written all over it.
Of course, there is always the remote chance that world events could change the fate of the dwindling number of Garys who remain. But realistically, it would have to be something totally unexpected and shocking – in a good way. If Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge are listening here's your chance to save us from extinction. Prince Gary has a nice ring to it, I think.
Follow me on Twitter: @garymasonglobe