Count Carson among the hottest surname names of the moment.
Our Baby Name of the Day comes from this post about the fastest rising boy names.
Wilson means the son of Will; Jackson, the son of John. And so we’d expect to deconstruct this name and arrive at Carr’s son.
Carr and Kerr exist as names in Scotland and northern parts of England, possibly meaning marsh or fort or rock, or maybe even rough ground or spear. But I’m stringing together a long line of guesses.
Or maybe not.
The more compelling suggestion is that it comes from Notre Dame de Courson in the Calvados region of France. Back in the day, members of the family were part of the Norman invasion of England. Their surname became Curzon initially, a form still in use today. And perhaps it was simplified further still, to Carson.
Kit to Johnny
What we know for certain is that the surname became very common, and dozens of famous figures have answered to it.
There’s legendary frontiersman Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson. Stories about him featured in the media even during his lifetime. Even in a pre-Instagram era, exaggeration ran rampant. But Kit truly did help win the West, serving as a guide to the US Army, helping to blaze the Oregon Trail. The downside? Settlers and natives came into conflict. Later in his career, Kit served in the Union Army and led campaigns against the Apaches and the Navajo. It leads to a mixed legacy.
But Kit’s name remains all over the lands that he traveled, including Carson City in Nevada, as well as the neighboring river, plus more towns, trails, and a national forest.
Fast-forward into the twentieth century, and there are even more famous figures with the name, real and fictional:
- Late-night talk show host Johnny helped define the genre over three decades at NBC.
- Biologist Rachel became a founder of the modern environmental movement with Silent Spring, her groundbreaking 1962 work.
- In the land of Barbie, it’s the surname of her boyfriend, Ken.
And it’s been a first name along the way, too. Born Lula Carson McCullers, the famous Southern Gothic writer dropped her first name in favor of her family middle before publishing works like The Member of the Wedding and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in the 1940s.
Downton and Philadelphia
Fans of Downton Abbey associate this name with the ever-correct but warm-hearted butler of Downton Abbey fame, Charles Carson.
But the period drama gets no credit for the name’s rise. Instead, my guess is that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz explains the name’s sharp rise in use.
The Eagles picked up Wentz in the 2016 draft; he was second overall. During his rookie season, the newcomer set all kinds of records. And he helped his team start strong in the 2017 season. But when the Eagles won the Super Bowl in February of 2018, Wentz was on the sidelines with an injury.
Still, his popularity almost certainly explains the name’s big jump in use between 2017 and 2018, from 4,740 to 5,227 births.
One more famous figure: there’s also Carson Daly, another television host on NBC, just decades post-Johnny.
Carter and Jackson
Even before the football connection, this name was a favorite. It’s ranked in the US Top 100 every year since 2006, and several years dating back to 2001. It appeared in the Top 1000 nearly every year stretching back to 1880 when the data is first reported.
It sounds like the even-more popular surname name Carter meets favorite patronymic Jackson, the kind of smoosh we might have invented if it didn’t already exist.
Alternate spellings abound: Karson rose dramatically last year, too, sitting just beyond the current Top 250. Karsyn sits just inside the Top 1000. Karsen, Carsen, and Carsyn are seen with some regularity, too.
Like so many surname names, it’s occasionally unisex, though the majority are boys.
21st Century Staple
I’d call Carson twenty-first century staple. It’s not quite a classic, but, like Ryan and Ethan, Cooper and Miles, it seems traditional enough to please many families. And while it might seem tied to this era, just as surely as we think of Dennis and Gary as belonging to a different generation, it will likely stand the test of time.
What do you think of Carson? Would you consider it for a son?