Do we need to talk about Kevin?

The character Kevin McCallister from the movie "Home Alone" (1990).
Kevin from “Home Alone”

Have you heard of Kevinism? It’s Europe’s bias against people who have first names that are “culturally devalued” like Kevin, Chantal, Mandy and Justin — names that were popularized by American pop culture, typically.

In the case of Kevin, it became trendy overseas in the late ’80s and early ’90s, thanks largely to American actors like Kevin Costner and Kevin Bacon — not to mention the very successful 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone, in which the lead character was a young boy named Kevin.

In fact, the name hit #1 in several European countries, including France and Switzerland.

In France specifically, the name Kevin was a top-10 name from 1988 to 1996, ranking #1 for six years straight:

  • 1997: 4,320 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 18th]
  • 1996: 5,842 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 10th]
  • 1995: 7,609 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 5th]
  • 1994: 9,865 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 1st]
  • 1993: 11,225 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 1st]
  • 1992: 12,648 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 1st]
  • 1991: 13,330 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 1st]
  • 1990: 11,418 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 1st]
  • 1989: 11,353 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 1st]
  • 1988: 8,378 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 5th]
  • 1987: 6,731 baby boys named Kevin [rank: 11th]
Graph of the usage of the baby name Kevin in France (INSEE).
Usage of Kevin in France (INSEE)

And those numbers don’t include the usage of the spelling “Kévin,” which was given to hundreds more baby boys per year during the same period.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Kévin in France (INSEE).
Usage of Kévin in France (INSEE)

After the trend cooled off, the backlash began.

It’s so bad now that, just a few years ago, a German schoolteacher told researchers that Kevin is “not a name, but a diagnosis.”

Which makes this recent observation by Andrew Gruttadaro of The Ringer all the more interesting: “Of the scripted shows on the four major [U.S.] networks that currently include a first name in the title–Kevin Can Wait, Young Sheldon, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Bob’s Burgers, Will & Grace, and Marlon–33 percent of them feature a Kevin.”

It’s a fascinating juxtaposition. Kevin has apparently hit some sort of nostalgic sweet-spot for American TV audiences, and, at the same time, it’s so disliked overseas that an entirely new word has been coined to describe the prejudice.

I wonder if those American shows are being seen in Europe and, if so, whether they’ll affect Kevinism. Will they exacerbate it? Eradicate it?

Where do you live, and how do you feel about the name Kevin?

Sources: Kevin, Chantal among worst names for online dating, We need to talk about Kévin: Why France fell in (and out of) love with a name, Why Are There So Many Kevins on TV?, INSEE

3 thoughts on “Do we need to talk about Kevin?

  1. Yeah, I think it is seen here (France) as a name low-class parents gave their kids after watching american tv, like the beverly hills 90210 names- Bandon, dylan, kelly…

  2. Thanks, Megan, for the extra names. Interestingly, 90210 started in the ’90s as well. Makes me think that the phenomenon must have been strongest in the early/mid 1990s.

    But I wonder how far back it goes — does it reach back to ’80s? A NYT article from 2006 (As U.S. Is Reviled Abroad, American TV Charms by Eric Pfanner) mentioned that “American shows [were then] enjoying a popularity not seen since the 1980’s heyday of “Dallas,” “Dynasty” and “The Dukes of Hazard.”” Maybe these shows had an influence as well…?

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