He’s handsome, continental and far fresher than Gregory. But can he overcome his Kafkaesque cockroach vibe?
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Gregor as Name of the Day.
Circa 2009, Greg is more likely to be the father – or even the grandfather – than the newborn baby boy. Ranked in the Top 100 from 1945 through 1996, Gregory peaked at #21 in the early 60s. He was still going strong when The Brady Bunch debuted in 1969. Short forms Greg and Gregg fared well as independent names, too; even Greggory charted in the 60s.
Today, Gregory is no longer fashionable, but he remains an evergreen classic. More than 1,500 boys born in the US were given the name last year.
Gregor seems like a promising variant. His -or ending puts him in a league with popular boys’ names like Connor and Tyler, as well as stylish up-and-comers like Archer and Miller. Gregor has never charted in the US Top 1000, but he’s perfectly common in parts of Europe, from Scotland to Slovenia.
Just like Gregory, Gregor derives from the Greek Gregorios, which traces back to the verb egeirein – to awaken. Add in the unrelated but similar-sounding grex – flock or herd – and the name conjures up a watchful shepherd. Plenty of Saints Gregory, as well as more than a dozen popes, have kept the name in steady use over the centuries, though he wasn’t heard in English until after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
Scientist and priest Gregor Mendel is among the best known bearers of the name. His nineteenth century experiments with pea plants became the basis of modern genetics in the twentieth century.
But then there’s Franz Kafka’s unforgettable literary character. The first line, as it appeared in German in the 1915 edition, is as follows:
Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.
If you’ve read The Metamorphosis in lit class, you’ve probably discussed the translation of “Ungeziefer” as “insect” or “cockroach.” Kafka never made that link, and the German term “Ungeziefer” is far less specific. Instead, the story is one of isolation. Still, the name Gregor might give you the creepy-crawlies.
Kafka may have borrowed the character’s name from a 1900 novel by Jakob Wasserman – The Story of Young Renate Fuchs. I’m not quite clear on the story’s plot or the reason Kafka would’ve borrowed the name. (Anyone read German? I’m in over my head.) Then there’s the Gregor from 1870’s Venus in Furs, the best known of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novels. But if you thought a cockroach was an uninspiring image for a child’s name, Sacher-Masoch offers no improvements. His surname is the basis for the word masochism.
So while Gregor’s literary pedigree is undeniable, you might want to completely forget all references should you choose the name for a son.
That leaves parents with a current sound and an appealing meaning. That might be enough for Gregor to catch on. But odds are he’ll remain an underused gem – more accessible that the Russian Grigori, comfortable on the playground with Hunter and Cooper and yet far from common.