From the 1910s to the 1930s, the rare name Greer occasionally popped in the in the U.S. baby name data as a boy name. In the early 1940s, though, it suddenly started being given to baby girls:
- 1943: 37 baby girls and 10 baby boys named Greer
- 1942: 15 baby girls and 6 baby boys named Greer
- 1941: 5 baby girls named Greer
- 1940: unlisted
- 1939: unlisted
In fact, from 1941 onward, the name Greer has been given more often to baby girls than to baby boys:
What caused the switch?
Red-haired British actress Greer Garson, who was most popular in America during the early-to-mid 1940s. She was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress seven times, though she won only once (for her role in the 1942 movie Mrs. Miniver).
Her birth name was Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson; Greer was her mother’s maiden name. She began going by “Greer Garson” in the early 1930s, while she was still a stage actress in England.
Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM studios, discovered Garson in 1937 while he was abroad hunting for talent. After that particular trip, he sailed back to the U.S. with Garson and several other finds:
Also on board were two Austrian actresses named Hedy Kiesler and Rose Stradner, screenwriter Walter Reisch, and two singers, Hungarian Ilona Hajmassy, and Polish Miliza Korjus. While Mayer renamed Hedy Kiesler “Hedy Lamarr” and changed Ilona Hajmassy to “Ilona Massey,” he was stumped when it came to Greer and Miliza Korjus. Ultimately, he settled with Howard Strickling [head of MGM’s publicity department] to start a publicity campaign for Korjus (“her name rhymes with gorgeous!”), and left Greer’s name alone. But for years he would continue to complain that her name was not feminine enough.
The surname Greer is related to the personal name Gregory, which means “watchful, alert.”
What are your thoughts on the name Greer? Do you like it better as a girl name or as a boy name?
- “Greer Garson’s Poodles Go to School for Manners.” Life 23 Jun. 1941: 80.
- Greer Garson – Wikipedia
- Gregory – Behind the Name
- Troyan, Michael. A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.
P.S. The top image of (a very bejeweled) Greer Garson comes from her appearance on the TV game show “What’s My Line?” in April of 1958.
P.P.S. At the height of her fame, Greer Garson owned two standard poodles with the rhyming names Gogo and Clicquot (pronounced klee-koh).