If You're a Southerner Who Goes By Mary, Here's What Your Name Says About You

We’re talking about double-name Marys too, naturally.

Like Tabasco hot sauce or Duke's mayonnaise, in the South, the name Mary goes with just about everything. I've known Mary Graces and Mary Elizabeths, Mary Katherines and Mary Catherines. I've met a few Mary Margarets and one Mary Geer. And, of course, I have a dear friend who goes simply by Mary. But whether she answers to a double name or goes it alone, we've got to admit: There's something about Mary. Here are five common ways Southerners adopt the beloved name—and what each of them says about the person who wears it.

Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Bettmann / Contributor


Like Spode's Blue Italian china, which has been popular for more than two centuries, Mary was the most common name for girls in the U.S. from at least 1800 through 1961. And while it may have seen a decline in popularity in the rest of the country since, it still ranks consistently high in Southern states. But around these parts, Mary is so frequently, creatively paired with other names that you rarely hear it as a standalone, and that's why those of you who do solely go by Mary are especially proud. Your strength of character is unmatched, and your graciousness knows no bounds. And no wonder, when you share the name with the mother of Jesus himself.

Mary + Your Mother's Maiden Name

If your mom chose to adopt her partner's last name when she got married, she may be eager to keep her own family name alive through the next generation, and deeding it to you as a middle name that's spoken only at christenings and high school graduations will not do. If you've inherited her maiden name, you've no doubt received her most admirable traits too, including her green thumb, her knack for discovering the best drugstore lip color, and her gift for making perfect strangers feel like old friends.

Grandmother Mary + the Other Grandmother's Name

Need a two-for-one way to honor your family's matriarchs? Easy…as long as one of them is named Mary. If your parents have achieved the spectacular feat of naming you after both of your grandmothers, your family is a model of perfect familial peace. Mother and mother-in-law have both been satisfied; there is no bad blood to speak of. In your family, Thanksgiving dinner is a delight, and nobody discusses unseemly topics like politics or religion. And because you've got this baked right into your identity, you too are the ultimate mediator and peacekeeper, bringing a sense of calm to everyone around you. You're also probably pretty good at making biscuits.

Mary + Father's Name

We can't forget dear old dad! Perhaps Pops had envisioned passing on his name to a son, but if he's been blessed with a daughter, he's just as eager to share his appellation with you. Of course, Scott or Franklin may be a hard sell for a gal's primary name, but pair it with Mary and you've got a memorable moniker you won't share with anyone else in the class. If you're carrying on the old man's name, you're a hard worker who's always up for a challenge, and you can fill the rest of us in on what's actually happening in this football game.

Mary + Non-Family Name

Your parents are the ultimate diplomats. Yes, they may have done the downright unusual (in great aunt Judy's eyes) by venturing outside of the family tree for a new name, but they put everyone at ease by pairing it with old-faithful Mary. You're a traveler with your eyes set on the horizon, but you also have an appreciation for your Southern roots. And when you eventually move to New York or California, you'll still subscribe to Southern Living to feel closer to home.

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