Magazine July 6, 2020, Issue

‘Scandalize My Name’

Karen Allen (Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
The use and abuse of ‘Karen,’ etc.

Last summer, I sat down to lunch with a young friend and his new girlfriend, Karen. We got on the subject of her name (first and last) — and I learned that “Karen” had become an epithet, a slur.

Boy, has it. It’s all over the social media, certainly Twitter, the social medium I’m most familiar with. People use “Karen” as commonly and casually as they might use “the” or “a.”

A “Karen,” in this understanding, is a white woman, probably middle-aged, who is arrogant, ignorant, and racist. She’s the type to demand to see the manager.

Incidentally, my friend Barbara J. Fields,

Something to Consider

If you enjoyed this article, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS. Members get all of our content (including the magazine), no paywalls or content meters, an advertising-minimal experience, and unique access to our writers and editors (through conference calls, social media groups, and more). And importantly, NRPLUS members help keep NR going.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more content like this, we have a proposition for you: Join NRPLUS.


Join Now

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners



The Latest