I would guess that everyone, in childhood, spends some time thinking about what they would change their name to. Most people do this simply because they think it would be interesting to try out a different name.
But I’m a Doug. And I think Dougs also do this to escape the inexorable uncoolness of being named Doug.
One syllable. Hard consonent, soft vowels, hard consonent. Sounds and looks a lot like “dog.” Pronounced the same as the past-tense of “to dig.”
There’s nothing exciting there. Just mild embarrassment.
Let’s start with the fact that there are no cool celebrity Dougs, of course. The biggest and baddest Doug was Douglas MacArthur, but most people call him by his last name: that's because you might fear MacArthur, but you don’t fear Doug. Other Dougs have deep, deep flaws: Doug Henning was goofy, Douglas Adams is deeply entrenched in nerd culture, and Doug Christie is mostly famous for the puppylike way he was controlled by his wife.
We Dougs do not even have any fictional heroes; nobody names their cool character “Doug.” Doug is not an action hero: never in the history of cinema has someone said the line, “What will we do without Doug?” or “If only Doug were here to rescue us!” The action hero is always Jack or Ryan or something punchy, but not Doug. Oh, Doug is in the movie, but he’s the reliable guy who stays back at HQ and says things into Jack’s earpiece: “Jack, you’ve got a bogie coming in at 1800!” “Thanks, Doug. Now I can kill the bad guys and get the girl while you...do something off-screen.”
Non-action-hero fictional Dougs are no better. Millennials instinctively associate the name with a big-nosed cartoon character who was so not funny that they had to give him the last name Funnie just to make up for it. My favorite fictional Doug was Doug McKenzie (played by Rick Moranis), brother of Bob, who was really cool, eh….in 1986. 33 years ago.
The end of the popularity of Doug McKenzie heralded the end of the era of Doug or Douglas as a popular baby name in the US. Douglas had a great run from the 1940s until the early 1970s, when it was in the top-50 every year. It started a slow decline after that, but was still in the top-100 in 1990. Then it fell off the rails, declining quickly all the way down to its low point of #618 last year, right ahead of “Tristen” but one behind “Niko” and narrowly edging out a name that looks like either a vowel dump in Scrabble or a racist death metal band (“Ayaan” at #637).
It’s hard to imagine someone getting really excited to name their kid Doug these days. Picture the happy couple, looking through the book of baby names, and settling on “Doug” as the best possible, most interesting, most inspiring option.
They’d learn that “Douglas” is a Scottish name, meaning “dark stream,” which mostly sounds like you’re dehydrated. It’s just not going to happen: nobody is dooming their kid to the support guy at HQ role.
If a couple names their baby “Doug” it is because they are naming him after their Dad or grandpa or other man in their life, which means that we Dougs have to inspire other people if the name is continue. It’s a burden, I tell you.
It’s debatable, in fact, as to whether “Dougie” may be the cooler version of the name at this point. You’ve got the 2012 “Teach Me How to Dougie” moment, and two rappers -- Doug E. Fresh and Doug E. Doug -- who have incorporated the diminutive into their stage names. But there is no way to be taken seriously as a Dougie in real life.
You cannot even rhyme it in interesting ways. Every Doug gets called Doug the Slug or Doug the Bug in elementary school. But that’s not just the mean, unimaginative kids. What else are you going to go with? Ugh? Shrug? Drug? About the best we’ve got is an ironic “I didn’t choose the Doug life, the Doug life chose me” (of course you didn’t choose the Doug life! Nobody would choose the Doug life!).
So, yeah, it’s not easy being Doug. But there was one day, one moment, when Doug reigned supreme, when the Hero of the Dougs lifted us up to heights we never knew before, or have known since. November 23, 1984. Boston College vs Miami. 6 seconds left, 63 yards to go against a 30mph wind, and a 5’7” quarterback with the ball. He even threw it to the even-more-uncool “Gerald.”
Most people are amazed by the athleticism of that moment; I am mostly impressed by Doug and Gerald being the heroes of the day.
Then we went back to HQ, and let Jack take over once more.