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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Grover

Jenn writes:
I am (unfortunately) not yet pregnant, but in a trivia quiz today my husband and I came across the name Grover (the question was about Grover Cleveland).  We both decided that we like the name, and are considering it for our ever-growing-and-changing-shortlist.  However, we are aware of the very strong association with Sesame Street.  So I'm wondering what everyone thinks.  I know that the association will be strong for most, but does it make it unusable?  Would it be better in the middle name slot?  What makes it different to Oscar, also from Sesame St, but now on so many cute wee boys?

Hope you and your fabulous readers can help us out.

PS - Before you say it's no good - how cute would little Grover in a Super Grover shirt be?


PRETTY CUTE, that's how cute. I have three associations with the name Grover:

1. Loveable furry Sesame Street Grover.

2. Former U.S. president Grover Cleveland.

3. A former hippie co-worker of mine, who used to ask me in dreamy tones how many birds I'd seen today. (Bird-counting is how you show you're tuned in to nature around you.) (Apparently.)


The comparison to Oscar is a good one: without it, I'd be tempted to say I was afraid the name Grover was too tied to Sesame Street---but you're absolutely right, the name Oscar is managing to overcome that. In 2011, the Social Security Administration reports 2,359 new baby boys named Oscar---but only 9 named Grover. WHY?

Even more mystifying, Oscar isn't the recent "finally overcoming the television show" success I'd been thinking of it as: it was in the Top 100 until 1925, and it's stayed steadily in the 100s and 200s rankings ever since. I'd have thought it would have gone down in popularity after Sesame Street aired, but in fact it got MORE common.

The name Grover had a remarkable surge in popularity around the time Grover Cleveland was president in the late 1800s, and then dropped to mostly the 200s and 300s for about 50 years, then dropped even further (400s, 500s, 600s, 700s) in the next 25 years, and then disappeared from the Top 1000 altogether in 1974 and hasn't been back.

WHY? Theories welcome! And in the meantime, let's have a poll over to the right, with reasons for our voting choices in the comments section. [Poll closed; see results below.]


Poll results for "What do you think of the name Grover?" (468 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 34 votes (7%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 62 votes (13%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 161 votes (34%)
No particular opinion - 14 votes (3%)
Slight dislike - 99 votes (21%)
Strong dislike - 98 votes (21%)

29 comments:

Liz said...

When I think of the name Oscar, there are a lot of associations that crop up: Oscar Wilde, Oscar de la Renta, "The Oscars" (film awards), and yes Oscar the Grouch... but the grouch is thrown in with a long list of other Oscars. The precedent is set for Oscar to be a totally usable and normal name. In my mind, however, Grover is only associated with the Sesame Street character and the president. That's it. I don't necessarily think the name is totally unusable though... maybe it's time for a Grover come back!

SF said...

I love the idea of a little Grover - it's a recognizable name with a great sound, but hasn't been used much which makes it quite unique. I suppose the fact that it's so underused makes people hesitant to use it, but personally I'd like to see the name used more, now that you mention it. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree Grover has fewer associations, just the president & character. Oscar's continued popularity may also be due in part to Spanish speakers, Oscar is a fairly popular name in some Latin American countries (where the Grouch association is lessened perhaps).

Snoopyfan said...

For my taste, the connection is too strong. Grover on sesame street is a bumbling, not so smart, little blue monster. Oscar is a strong-willed grumpy curmudgeon. I would not want my child to be associated with Grover or Elmo, for that matter. Too muppet-ish. Sorry!

Guinevere said...

I see Anonymous has beaten me to it, but I'm quite sure that Oscar's staying on the charts has to do with the strength of it's popularity among Spanish-speaking American namers. If the name is popular in your community, then the grouch is just one of many associations that the average person might have, and thus diluted to the point that it is not a dealbreaker.

I think Grover is useable also if you don't mind the frequent comments when your child is first being introduced. (It might help to have something along the lines of "No, after Grover Cleveland, actually" ready as a reply.) But after a first meeting, your child would quickly become the dominant association that person has for the name... and I think as a grown up, I imagine a Grover would receive less idle chit-chat about Sesame Street as well.

Guinevere said...

In fact, if you look at the Baby NameMapper, you can see that Oscar lights up the southwest and the rest of the country is not shaded in at all. The frequent use in CA, NV, NM, TX, starting in Texas and California in the 60s, but little use elsewhere, is almost certainly due to use in the Latino community.
http://www.babynamewizard.com/name-mapper

Anonymous said...

I love Grover! It is a major family name on my fiancee's side and I've been eyeing it for a middle name. Even though the relevence of Sesame street might be huge in little Grover's kindergarten class I think the association will become less important over time. And who knows, maybe it will help him make friends among his fellow sesame street fanatics? I'm all for Grover.

Annika said...

We met a little boy (maybe 3 at the time) named Grover a few years ago and I thought it was great! I did think of Sesame Street immediately, my my association with Grover-the-muppet is a positive one (Super Grover! Near and far!) so that wasn't weird for me. Plus, when it's on an actual person you gain the instant association of ADORABLE LITTLE BOY.

Bitts said...

I love it. Plus, the nn 'Grove' is pretty cool, too. And how cute would a set of boy-boy twins named Grover and Gordon be?!?

(Huge, unabashed Sesame fan, here.)

Brittany said...

My association to Sesame Street is strong and immediate, with President Cleveland far in the distance. However, it's a positive association, and like other commenters have said, I think the association would be diluted when there was a little boy Grover in front of me. In short, I think it has great potential and wish more people would use it, but I'd be hesitant to use it myself at this point. Middle name would be excellent, and go for it if you love it for a first name. And best of luck in growing your family!

Clarabella said...

No one has mentioned it, but the name Elmo has the same Sesame Street association as Grover and Oscar, but without a fallback association, so no one uses it even though it is really similar to names like Milo, Arlo, Amos, etc. I have a friend who's dad is named Elmo, so it works fine on an adult, but it makes me sad that it's almost unusable on a child.
I think Grover is GREAT, and once the puppet association wore off, a kid would wear it well, I'm sure.

AmyRobynne said...

I know an 11 year old Grover (sibs Finn and Adelaide) and the Sesame St song doesn't pop into my head every time he's mentioned.

I say go for it.

phancymama said...

I like the name Grover, and think it would be an adorable name on a little boy. I agree that having a good comeback when someone remarks on the sesame street connection is a good idea. Also to expect people to say something, and then you are pleasantly surprised when they don't! :)

I was interested to hear the popularity of Oscar among Spanish -speaking families. My first thought as to why Oscar has less of an association with sesame street is because it is " Oscar-the-grouch" and saying just Oscar differentiates it. Like Oscar Mayer and Oscar the Grouch and Oscar have three different meanings. Maybe?

mamashine said...

Now that my kids are a little older, I have a strong association with Grover as being Percy Jackson's faun friend. He's a great character, but he does have furry feet and eat diet coke cans....
And I think of Super Grover as well.

But really, those aren't strong deterrents. My dad's name is Clifford, and he gets "oh, like the big red dog?" sometimes. You say yes and move on. Once it's attached to your cute boy he will make it his own. If you love it I say go for it.

Anonymous said...

Love it!

Patricia said...

The name Grover is most often associated with President Grover Cleveland, who served two non-consecutive terms: 1885–1889 and 1893–1897. However, Grover Cleveland's full name was Stephen Grover Cleveland, and he didn't go by "Grover" until he was an adult. Cleveland, the fifth of nine children, was named Stephen Grover in honor of the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell, where his father was pastor at the time.

Grover is an occupational surname originating in England where grover referred to any person working in tree groves. As a first name Grover fits in with other occupational names such as Cooper, Carter, Taylor, Tyler, etc., and also with current favorites beginning with 'Gr', like Grady, Grant, Graham and Griffin. I think the name could make a modest comeback.

Oscar has a much longer history as a first name, including King Oscar of Sweden who was named Oscar by his godfather Napoleon Bonaparte. The royal history of Oscar may be why the name is more much more popular than Grover and why Oscar is currently among the top 100 names in 9 countries, including Sweden where Oscar is the second most popular name.

Robyn said...

I'm in Australia and my only association with the name Grover is Sesame Street. I think think it would an adorable name for a baby but (in this country anyway) I think it would make him a huge target for teasing once he hit school age. I personally wouldn't do that to a kid but again it seems like it might be different in the states.

ksmaybe said...

He needs this onesie if you use it!
http://www.kiwiindustries.com/proddetail.php?prod=SSBWGR
It also brings to mind using other language forms of the name...German is apparently Grobi, I don't think I could pull that off, but maybe another one would work? I think it's the sort of name that would sound odd at first, and obviously would bring Sesame Street to mind, but eventually would sound completely normal. You'll get comments for sure, but I doubt it would be a big issue.

Unknown said...

When I think of Oscar, it's "Oscar the Grouch" but Grover has no such extra on the name (except perhaps "Super Grover").

Also, Grover has the similarity with the sounds of the word "gross."

My boyfriend in high school had a grandfather named Grover, and he was a really nice man, so I have a positive association because of that.

Kaci said...

I grew up with a Grover and its just who he was. I never once associated it with anything else. I say go for it too.

Caitlin B said...

I have another association (although 1 & 2 are also my first and second associations with Grover). In the Nanny Diaries, the nanny calls the kid she sits "Grover."

My opinion on someone naming their child Grover today - awesome! I think he should totally come back. It's so fun to say.

I think it might be a bit much in a sibset with Oscar and Telly, though. :)

Eva.G said...

My first association is Percy Jackson's friend, Grover Underwood, who is actually a satyr (Greek). Grover is hilarious in the series and is a very likeable character.

I don't have the immediate Sesame Street association because I don't have kids and haven't watched the show since.......well, since I was 4 years old!

I don't see any problem with using the name. I think any and all of the aforementioned associations are totally fine. If you like it, definitely use it!

Alice said...

I really want it to be useable because when I think of it objectively and dissect it in my head, I love it. The name Grosvenor is in my family (pronounced Grove-ner) and I've always liked the sound of that too. The sesame street connection is strong but I think it's more useable than Elmo or Kermit.

kinsey said...

I have a great friend with a precious baby boy named Grover. Love it! It's her husbands name too, but he goes by his middle...

Kathleen said...

I think Grover would be a great name. People will definitely associate it with Sesame Street, but I think it is a very distinguished and wonderful name. I would go for it.

Anonymous said...

Californian here, and yes, I think Oscar is high on the charts largely (if not exclusively) because it is very popular in the Latino community. We don't know any little Oscars who do not have at least one Latino parent. The California top 50 for boys also includes Angel, Jose, Jesus, Juan, Luis, and Carlos, which are getting a boost on that front as well.

For me, the Sesame Street association for Grover is too much to overcome. For Oscar, it's balanced with the Odd Couple association so it's less dominant (but the two together still meant that the name didn't make our short list, although both Oscar and Grover are the style of names we considered).

liz said...

I'm active in politics, so I think Grover Norquist (shudder), but also loveable pal Grover (yay!) and Grover from Percy Jackson.

So I say go for it!

jenn said...

Yay! Glad people are positive about it. As I said in my message, it's not a real issue for us just yet. But I think it's officially on the shortlist :)

MrsRuiz said...

I love the name. I might be remembering this incorrectly from my sunday school days, but I thought it was a female name in a bible story. Personally, I think it's super cute as a girls name or a boys name!