Monday, February 27, 2017

Random Fact of the Day: Feminizations and Feminine Suffixes

English doesn't have any native feminizing suffixes: all the ones we typically use (-a, -ia, -ette/etta, -ine/ina) are borrowed from Latin and Latinate languages.
Rather, Old English had certain elements that were exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine (and many that could be either). It also usually depended on whether that element was the first half or the second half of the name--for instance, hild ("battle") could start either a boys' or girls' name (like Hildewine "battle-friend" or Hildegard "battle protection"), but as a ending element, it was pretty much exclusively for girls.

So instead, if you wanted to endemically turn an OE boys' name into a girls' name (whether or not that was something that even occurred to them, IDK), you would have to swap out the masculine ending element for a feminine one similar in sound or meaning, like Ælfwig ("elf war") to Ælfhild ("elf battle"); or Wulfwine ("wolf friend") to Wulfwynn ("wolf joy"); or in some cases, just reverse the elements: Burgstan ("fortress stone") to Stanburg ("stone fortress"); or Thrudgar ("strength spear") or Gertrude ("spear strength").


Of course, the whole "add an A to make a girls' name" thing was imported pretty darned early (by the 800s for sure, but possibly as early as the 200s AD), so this whole thing is really just an exercise in dorky minutiae. :p

Friday, February 24, 2017

RIP, 1970; Part 2

For this round, I'm looking at change in gender. As you can imagine, the vast majority that changed went boy-to-girl or boy-to-unisex.
I compared the gender ratio for each name in 1970 to the gender ratio today, and here are the biggest changes.
(from the current Top 1500, because names further down are a lot more subject to bouncing around)

Masculine in 1970, now more common for girls:
(note that this is not necessarily most-->least common today, but the names that changed gender most strongly)
  1. Charley
  2. Emory
  3. Riley
  4. Monroe
  5. Emerson
  6. Reese
  7. Emery
  8. Stevie
  9. Kennedy
  10. Addison
  11. Mckinley
  12. Palmer
  13. Ellery
  14. Leighton
  15. Payton
  16. Harley
  17. Bailey
  18. Aubrey
  19. Berkley
  20. Delaney
It's hard to show the change easily and succinctly, but Charley, the biggest gender-swap, went from 90 boys to every girl to 8 girls for every boy. Emory went from about 80 boys to every girl to 8 girls for every boy. I calculated using percentages, so these lists are weighted towards more common names--although Delaney went from 13 boys per girl to 277 girls per boy, it was much less popular to start with.

Still more common for boys, but with the biggest shifts toward unisex:
  1. Elliott
  2. Elliot
  3. Denver
  4. Spencer
  5. Drew
  6. Royal
  7. Milan
  8. Charlie
  9. Ellis
  10. Reece
  11. Jordan
  12. Blake
  13. Chandler
  14. Ari
  15. Remy
  16. Lennox
  17. Quincy
  18. Keegan
  19. Rory
  20. Dallas
Elliott was the biggest shift on any of the lists. It went from not appearing at all on the girls list (if there was one girl Elliott born in 1970, that would make it about a 230/1 boy/girl ratio) to a ratio of about 4 boys for every girl.

And just for fun, the few names that went girl-->boy (again, only from the 2015 boys' Top 1500 to avoid weird data).
More feminine in 1970, now more common for boys:
  1. Joan
  2. Yael
  3. Isa
  4. Tristin
  5. Dashawn
  6. Tristen
  7. Jean
  8. Dominique
  9. Elisha
  10. Davi
  11. Deshaun
  12. Niko
  13. Nico
  14. Nikola
  15. Arian
  16. Sami
  17. Deshawn
  18. Angel
Almost all of these were pretty uncommon for either in 1970 (for instance, Niko was given to 16 girls and 9 boys that year). Joan and Jean are big surprises, though! I knew they were generally considered "outdated" for girls, but I didn't realize both were now more common for boys (I'm assuming said the Catalan & French ways, respectively).

Still more common for girls, but with the biggest shifts toward unisex:
  1. Robin
  2. Eden
  3. Courtney
Of course, jumping from 1970 to 2015, you miss the giant spike of  Courtneys around 1990.
The one popular '70s name on this list is Robin--Robin was over 10x more common for girls in 1970, and is now nearly equal for boys and girls. Surprising, but pretty awesome!


If you're interested in the full list of gender-benders, it is here