G Is For Grace — What's That Up Her Sleeve?S

Grace doesn't talk much, but it's not because she has nothing to say. It's just that she likes to keep you guessing.

The name itself has a soft quality to it, both in its meaning and in its sibilant ending. Then again, it also starts with "Gr." Which may be why a Grace, to me, is a study in contradictions. She may be sweet and quiet, with a demure haircut (I'm thinking bangs) and a predilection for sweater sets. But in her spare time, she likes to kickbox, or beatbox, or breakdance, or climb mountains. Or her hidden strength might be more intellectual in nature — you lose track of her for a few years after college, only to find out that she's the country's leading nuclear physicist. Or, like, a senator. Point is, she's the kind of girl about whom you're tempted to say, "I didn't know she had it in her." Except you kind of did.

Grace Jones is a good example, in some ways. Her androgynous image jibes with the grr/sss duality of the name — Graces are capable of holding two identities in one. But her fierceness seems to have been pretty obvious from the get-go. Grace Kelly may fit the Grace bill better. With her cool beauty, her perfect hair, and her marriage to a prince, she seemed very demure — and maybe not that exciting. But a Larry King segment from 2003 revealed Kelly's Grace moment: when the Stork Club refused to serve Josephine Baker because of her race, Kelly got up and left, swearing never to return. She never did, and she and Baker became friends. This strikes me as typical Grace — maybe she spent most of high school twirling her pearls, but you'll always remember her for at least one vehement stand.

But maybe my favorite example is actress Grace Park. On Battlestar Galactica, she played a sweet yet efficient lieutenant who was having a secret affair with another officer. Already two identities! But — her character was also a Cylon, which makes not one but two surprises hidden behind her law-abiding exterior. And yet, neither revelation, when it came, seemed out of character at all. Of course, Battlestar is fictional, and Grace Park's character on the show was actually named Sharon. But whatever — I never said this was science.

Grace's popularity graph is pretty interesting. The name was apparently #14 in America in the 1880s, then began sliding. It limped along in the 200s during the fifties and sixties — maybe those Commie-fearing times weren't kind to names with a lot of secrets. Grace hit a low of 371 in the seventies, and then started to climb again, reaching number 13 in 2003 and 2004. In 2008 it was back down to 21, but don't count Grace out — a recession seems like a good time for a name that does double duty.

Grace [Wikipedia]
Grace Popularity Chart [Baby Name Wizards]