Sunday, July 07, 2013

Brother or sister speaks well?

Steve Sailer's insight into the secure masculinity of biblical male names has been of great personal interest recently. While it's a great place to start, however, it isn't without exceptions. He never claimed it was, of course--I've just finally gotten around to putting a little pressure on it.

Aaron/Erin is the first exception that comes to mind, though I'm sure there are more. Enlighten me, please. That the feminine origins are distinct from the masculine ones doesn't negate (at least not fully) the functional consequences of onomastic homonyms when it comes to given names as far as I'm concerned.


Steve Johnson said...

I think you meant homophones and not homonyms.

Homonyms share a spelling - homophones share a pronunciation.

...although Aaron and Erin have distinct pronunciations.

Audacious Epigone said...


I thought the word homonym was a sort of linguistic catchall for laymen. See this definition, for example.

Yeah, first should be air-un, second air-in, but I hear the names pronounced the same way by most people.

IHTG said...

Aaron and Erin pronounced the same way? WTF?

Which one of the two are they pronounced like? Or are they pronounced like something else entirely?

Anonymous said...

How about Kim as a man's first name?

Also, in the south, Aaron is pronounced with the short 'a' as it bat, and the 'o' as in cot.

Erin is pronounced as you suggested 'air in.

Anonymous said...

It's revenge of the schwa!

Seriously, I very sloppily pronounced Ilka and Elke the same way. My friends with those names asked me the same question of WTF is the matter with you? One was very annoyed telling me she was Ilka ( ill kah ) and not Elke ( el keh ).

I had homogenized their names with our beloved schwa! They thought I was a real 'tard on that point of pronunciation.

Audacious Epigone said...

Hah, maybe it's a regional thing that is making me look like a backwater provincial. Well, that's encouraging... for Steve's theory, anyway!

Anonymous said...

Granted, I have a sample size of one, but Elisha Cuthbert is an example of a masculine Bible name being given to a girl.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Names never flow back from female to male, I don't think. Boys' names ending in an "ee" sound are particularly prone to becoming feminine: Kelly, Shirley, Leslie, Tracy, Jerry, and a dozen others. Boys' names are overall more stable, the favorites changing at about one-third the speed of female favorites. The most common names for boys in 1300 were John, William, Robert, Richard, and Thomas. (There were interesting changes just before that, though.) Michael and David held sway from 1950-2000. Only in 2000 or so did we start to see quicker turnover for the lads.

I've written on the topic a few times:

There are also pathological names. Crystal and Amber were over-represented among problem girls in the last generation, for example - much to the irritation of the non-pathological Crystals.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I haven't been over lately and missed the baby-thing. I suggested that "Oscar" might be poised for a comeback, much as passe-sounding Henry and Harry have. It's masculine, Nordic, recognisable. The Odd Couple associations will be lost on the rising generation.

But, congratulations. We have five boys, but only got to name two, Jonathan and Benjamin. The two Romanians who we brought in in 2001 changed from Dorel Christian to Christian Andrew, and Adrian Ionut to John-Adrian. Kyle was a nephew. Middle names tend to have some family connection in our tribe, which turned out to be less important than we predicted at the time. Fun, though. We liked the Swedish name Elin, but never had a girl, so it went unused.

All names can be made fun of by middle-schoolers, but be wary of those which adults find humorous.

Audacious Epigone said...


Thanks. Looks like that broke the top 1000 in the 80s, though it has fallen out of them since.


Even though it's English/Irish (I think) in origin, it seems to be a pretty popular name among Hispanics in Central and South America.

Re: middle names, that is to say that they don't ever come up in daily life?

Steve Sailer said...

"Re: middle names, that is to say that they don't ever come up in daily life?"

College presidents frequently use three names, or at least did in the past.

Middle names are useful to people with common last names. They also make natural stage names / nom de plumes for people who don't want to use their last names. If your last name is hard to spell or whatever, you can say to yourself, "Well, maybe I'm not using the surname my father gave me, but I'm going to use the middle name he gave me as a surname."

silly girl said...

I can hardly wait to meet my first female Wilbur. Seriously, double extra nerdy guy names won't be going female anytime soon. Egbert, Orville, Dexter, Sigmund, Walter, you know the kind.

Anonymous said...

How about a female Richard who goes by Dick?

Nah, not gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

Burl ( although Beryl can be mispronounced to match )
Ashurbanipal ( never could resist a good Assyrian name )

Steve Johnson said...

Hah, maybe it's a regional thing that is making me look like a backwater provincial. Well, that's encouraging... for Steve's theory, anyway!

Actually I was being coy in the original post - I know that it's regional.

Aaron / Erin is similar to Mary / merry / marry. Midwesterners pronounce the three the same - people in my region do not.