519 Boys Named “Sue”

In 1969, Johnny Cash released his recording of “A Boy Named Sue”— a ballad of a seemingly spiteful father who abandoned his son but only after naming him Sue. The song reaches a memorable finish when Sue’s father says,

Son, this world is rough

And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.”

 As it turns out, it wasn’t just one fictitious father who named his boy Sue. Based on data from the US Social Security Administration (SSA), at least 519 boys have been named “Sue” since 1880 in the US. Because the SSA only reports name counts for (i) years with 5 or more occurrences and (ii) people who signed up to receive a social security card, this number of boys named Sue is really a floor. I can’t speak to the motives of any particular parents, but Johnny Cash’s song didn’t seem to inspire many fathers to name their boys Sue. The chart below shows the counts of boys named Sue by year.


Unsurprisingly, the name has never been popular (the highest count of 19 male Sues occurred in 1943). Nevertheless, since the release Johnny Cash’s song there have been at least 166 boys named Sue.

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