Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the name game

Reading a magazine waiting at the doctor's office on Friday, I learned that Barack Obama's deceased mother's name was Stanley Anne Dunham.

"Stanley" is yet another male name that has been appropriated to name a female.

If other parents follow Obama's grandparent's lead and name their daughters Stanley, will Stanley enter that gray area of names that can be either male or female?

And if Stanley catches on as a female name, parents will stop naming newborn males Stanley and it will become a female-only name like the following former male names that are now considered female: Alexis, Ashley, Beverly, Brook, Carol, Courtney, Dana, Doris, Evelyn, Florence, Gail, Glenn, Heather, Hillary, Jocelyn, Kelly, Kelsey, Kim, Leslie, Lindsey, Lynn, Madison, Marion, Meredith, Paige, Robin, Shannon, Shelley, Shirley, Sydney, Taylor, Tracy, Vivian, Whitney.

If this trend continues, parents may eventually use up all of the male names to name females and may be stumped on what to name newborn males. Then will the other shoe fall, i.e., will parents start appropriating female names for their newborn sons and name their boys Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary, Susan, Diane, Katherine, etc?

I find the feminization of the name Stanley interesting from another viewpoint. My given male name is Stanley. Can I now safely go out en femme and use Stanley instead of Staci? Probably, yes.


  1. The name game:

    Remember the actress Michael Learned?

    And there's also Jamie (originally a nickname for James) and Bobbie (a nickname for Robert), and so on. It doesn't make a difference really if you use 'y' or 'ie' because they sound alike - as do Francis/Frances, from Francisco/Francesca in Italian. Then there's the doubled-nickname used for both boys and girls in parts of rural America: Billy-Ray, Bobbie-Sue, Jimmy-Joe, Tammy-Fay, and so on - the use of 'y' and 'ie' is not always uniform by sex.

    In France and French Canada boys often had Marie for a middle name: Jean-Marie.

    I believe that Dorothy also used to be a boy's name in English - it comes from the Greek Dorotheos. It's still used by the French as a male name (with a single acute-accent e at the end).

  2. Jim D --- I guess almost anything goes name-wise.