Gary S Chapman/Photodisc/Getty Images

Goodbye, Chad & Karen

Your monikers have become synonymous with terrible behavior, so we have to let you go. (Which you were kind of already doing.)

The youths are at it again, and this time? It’s personal. I mean, not for me. But for plenty of other people born in the 1970s to early 1990s. While coming up with slang terms is a rite of passage for every new generation (all the way from “groovy” to “tight”), some of the new phrases being used by Gen Z are more than just a word. Names, in particular the names Chad and Karen, have become shorthand for bad behavior, and the effects can be seen on national baby name lists. Chad and Karen are both officially out of the top 1,000, rendering them “extinct.”

Oh Karen, what happened?

Karen was a baby name as common during the 1960s as Liam is today. (If you too can only say the name “Karen” in your best Henry Hill voice, then you also watched Goodfellas too many times in your childhood.) It was consistently in the top 10 until the 1970s, where it moved into the top 50 category. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the name was fairly consistent, creeping down the list a bit each year.

But sometime in the last decade, and the name Karen became synonymous with entitled, white, middle-class women with Kate Gosselin haircuts, often found in grocery stores yelling for managers. A paper from the University of Boulder linguistics department pegs the origin of the term “Karen” as a slang term for a terrible person to 2018, when Urban Dictionary made it an official entry. But if you decide to search for when “Karen became a ‘thing,’” you’ll find most of the articles and stories were written in 2020, when there was an overwhelming urge to yell “Don’t be such a Karen!” at every woman refusing to wear a mask in Walmart during a global pandemic.

But 2020 is also when Karen dropped a whopping 163 points on the baby name popularity list.

True, the name hadn’t been top of the charts in quite some time. From 2010 to 2019, the name went from 249 to 661, each year falling off a little bit more. Then in 2020 it dropped from 661 to 824, and there is no data since 2020, which means it’s no longer in the top 1,000 names. That’s the cultural fallout of turning a name into a joke. Some baby names have become significantly unpopular and then experience a resurgence decades later, but I have a feeling Karen will stay off of lists for longer than the usual rotation.

Sorry, Chad.

I’m old enough to remember when Chad was just the random little hanging piece of paper that was stalling an entire presidential election in Florida, but the youths have made it shorthand for a stereotypical frat boy. While some sources claim the term Chad refers to a “sexually active ‘alpha male,’” it seems that most of the time, the word is used to describe a super-jocky, oblivious, entitled, ... well... frat boy. In a TikTok video from The Wakefield Howler — a high school newspaper — a reporter asks teachers to share a word their students say that they don’t understand, and then asks the students to explain the meaning. When the word “Chad” comes up, a student describes it as “Chad is like a frat boy. Like you’re just like a Chad.”

Like Karen, Chad is more than just a slang term for someone chronically annoying — they’re a way to convey a certain kind of toxic whiteness: Entitled white women who can call the police on Black men doing absolutely nothing and privileged white boys who get away with sexual assault. It’s not hard to see why nobody is bestowing these names on their little bundles of joy anymore.

Chad didn’t actually need much help in its slide into obscurity. Unlike the name Karen, the name Chad for boys was already a little meh by the 1960s. It didn’t break the top 100 until 1969, and its two most popular years were when it hit 25 in both 1972 and 1973. Since then, the name has fallen off in popularity a little bit each year, going from 236 in 2000 to 896 in 2018. In 2017 it hit 955 and then bounced back a little bit the following year before it officially disappeared from the top 1,000.

It’s funny that Chad became such a popular term for Gen Z, considering most Gen Z kids have never even met a Chad. For that we can probably blame Saturday Night Live. In Season 41 of the show (that would be 2015 to 2016), Pete Davidson hilariously portrayed a character named Chad — and then brought him back 11 times over the next five years. Davidson’s Chad is a chill “stoner dude,” an apathetic doofus whose catchphrase is the riveting “Okay.”

Maybe in another 30 years, when people have forgotten that Karen used to be something we shouted at women asking for a price check at Target, the names will come back. For now, at least, I think they’re “donezo.” (Are we still saying “donezo”?)