Names and Gender

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Stu
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Names and Gender

Post by Stu »

I know some people here have an interest in gender, so I will throw this in for your thoughts. I recently had a female student whose middle name I discovered was Willem. I assumed that was part of her last name, but I learned it wasn't and I was sure that was a boy's name. A colleague mentioned that there were some families who had a tradition of giving every child a middle name that was the first name of an uncle or aunt following a certain system. So, using her as an examplee, if she was the first grandchild on her mother's side and her maternal grandparents' eldest child was called Willem, then she would have that as the last of her Christian names before her surname. Her maternal grandmother's next grandchild would receive the name of the next uncle/aunt in line and so on. In the case of a boy, the same rule applied, except it would be the paternal grandparents' eldest child whose name would be added. Actual parents' names didn't apply. The idea of this was to keep names going in a family for as long as possible and nobody gets forgotten. For me, the interesting bit was that gender was irrelevant; hence, a girl could be given a middle name of Karl or Thomas. The opposite could equally apply to a boy taking an aunt's name, so he could end up having the name Anna or Caroline which, I guess in most cases, he would no doubt want to try to forget and keep secret. Whether or not that applied to the specific student I mentioned, I have no idea, and I didn't like to ask.

As an academic linguist, I find anthroponymy (the study of names) fascinating and so that sparked my interest. While I can see some degree of logic in the tradition, I also think such an opposite gender name could give someone a lifetime of embarrassment that would be hard to avoid, especially for males. I would also imagine that if this was a solid family tradition, there would be family or just emotional pressure not to formally erase that name. A minor plus might be that if someone was trans, they could easily adopt the name as their own.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by Coder »

Stu wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 3:39 pm
As an academic linguist, I find anthroponymy (the study of names) fascinating and so that sparked my interest. While I can see some degree of logic in the tradition, I also think such an opposite gender name could give someone a lifetime of embarrassment that would be hard to avoid, especially for males. I would also imagine that if this was a solid family tradition, there would be family or just emotional pressure not to formally erase that name. A minor plus might be that if someone was trans, they could easily adopt the name as their own.
Is it possible to understand the historical context when this tradition started? I mean, "In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri." (couldn't resist)

But I am serious - would the social mores we have today apply back then, when you refer to "someone a lifetime of embarrassment"? I also wonder if the same can be said of when baby boys were dressed in dresses - did society think that was embarrassing (probably not?) like we might today? I'm sure an alpha male back then would not be *proud* of pictures of them from that time, but would they be embarrassed since everyone was doing that?
Stu
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by Stu »

I totally take your point, but I was trying to imagine how I would feel if I was being asked for my full name by someone completing a form or computer application and I had to add "Caroline" between my first and last names. I think I would want the ground to open up and swallow me. :(
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by moonshadow »

The man who pumped my septic tank back in 2017 was named Caroll. Which I always figured was a girl's name, but appears to be more for boys according to the internet.

My step sisters name was Bobbie, which I realize the "ie" at the end means it's intended for a female, but the story goes the reason they named her thusly was to honor some man on her side of the family who I assume was named "Bobby".

As for me, Andrew is a male name, and I'm told I was named after the biblical disciple. It's interesting however that my childhood nickname is "Andy" which I found out is gender neutral. Though most "Andys" are boys, there are a few girl "Andys" too... I assume perhaps short for "Andrea".

Names are interesting for sure.

My middle name is my father's first name. And of course my last name is an old English name, and there are records of my last name going back to when the country was first settled, even sharing the name of an eastern Tennessee County, which was named after the first Senator from the state of Tennessee.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by Coder »

Stu wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 3:50 pm
I totally take your point, but I was trying to imagine how I would feel if I was being asked for my full name by someone completing a form or computer application and I had to add "Caroline" between my first and last names. I think I would want the ground to open up and swallow me. :(
:D

I too would have taken issue with it - and probably would have masculinized mine if it were female (Uh, yeah, my middle name is "Carl", not "Caroline"). As is, I never liked my middle name, it was my grandpa's first name I believe, and I have a good middle name.

I am always curious, though, how people acted in the historical context of their time, as the closer we move away from any point in history it gets harder and harder to really understand what they thought.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by crfriend »

Stu wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 3:50 pm
I totally take your point, but I was trying to imagine how I would feel if I was being asked for my full name by someone completing a form or computer application and I had to add "Caroline" between my first and last names. I think I would want the ground to open up and swallow me. :(
I would have no such problem, and would use the argument of, "If you don't like what my parents named me then that's your problem, because I don't have an issue with it." After all, all a "name" is is a sequence of utterances that we use to determine when we're being addressed or hailed. Nothing more and nothing less. It's civilisations and cultures which "assign" "gender" to assorted names -- and that's all it is: a convention, and that convention varies.

I, quite conventionally for the culture I was born into, wound up with my father's first name as my middle name, the choice of my first name apparently got a lot of attention put into it, and all the while that was going on nobody contemplated using spoken initials as shorthand for names. That, coupled to my surname had led to a fair bit of mirth and outright humour over the years. (Speak the combinations aloud and you'll hear the issue.)

I'd contemplated changing the spelling of my names to the German in honour of my mother, but getting that done would have been a whopping big hassle although it would have provided an odd coincidence with the cinematographer for Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Yes, names are fascinating things.
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rode_kater
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by rode_kater »

Who ever asks for middle names though? I mean, my full name is listed in my passport and on the documents when I bought my house but other than that?

In any case, here in NL it's more common to ask for the initials, surname and "roepnaam" which is the name people actually refer to you in daily life (I guess in English that would be your alias?). No-one needs your full name for anything other than legal documents.

Fun fact, in my direct family my brother is the only person who is actually called by their first name. I'm called by my middle name and most people don't know that. Sometimes people get surprised when they see my initials on mail but how often do other people see your mail? My parents first names were passed from previous generations, but they never were called by those names. It's so common for people to be called something other than what's on their birth certificate it doesn't raise any eyebrows. I know some people with the strangest middle names, who really cares?

It does cause issues in Australia though, because when people write cheques they have to use the name on your bank account. So you have to explain to people that yes, you're called A by everyone but if you don't put B on the cheque then the bank won't let me cash it. Fortunately, cheques are going the way of the dodo.

I was reminded of this though: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

When developing systems I use one thing: please enter the name the system would call you. If it's not HR it's doesn't need a real name.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by pelmut »

I know a woman called "Robin", but I've never asked her why she spells it the masculine way.  She is definitely not trans or butch.
Stu wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 3:39 pm
... A minor plus might be that if someone was trans, they could easily adopt the name as their own.
A few transwomen do keep their birth name and just change the spelling -- and sometimes they use the feminine equivalent of their previous masculine name -- but far more of them appear to want to cut the ties to their previous existence and start again with a completely unrelated and unmistakeably feminine name.  It's not uncommon for transwomen to ask their mothers what they would have been called if they had been born a girl.

I don't know many transmen personally, but those in online forums seem to adopt strongly masculine aliases (and avatars), which suggests that they too want to avoid any possible association with their past.
There is no such thing as a normal person, only someone you don't know very well yet.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by Uncle Al »

When reading this, I had to stifle a giggle ;)
Being a musician, what came to mind was the
Johnny Cash song "A Boy Named Sue".

:hide:
(Sorry but I couldn't resist ;) )

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Re: Names and Gender

Post by pelmut »

rode_kater wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 7:01 pm
...
When developing systems I use one thing: please enter the name the system would call you...
...and I hope you don't ask for devisive things like sex, gender, ethnicity or skin colour -- or even worse, only offer tick-box responses and program the system so it won't accept a form that has not had those boxes ticked.

Many years ago I had to design a form for registration in a society: it asked for "Title:" [optional], "Name:" [mandatory] and "Address:" [mandatory], it needed nothing more and has never required updating.
There is no such thing as a normal person, only someone you don't know very well yet.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by crfriend »

pelmut wrote:
Sat Feb 06, 2021 7:02 pm
I know a woman called "Robin", but I've never asked her why she spells it the masculine way.  She is definitely not trans or butch.
My father quite narrowly missed being named Robin. There are quite a few written hints to that effect in the doco that I possess to this day.

Again, it's only a sequence of utterances that we're trained from birth to respond to.
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Re: Names and Gender

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by crfriend » Sat Feb 06, 2021 11:12 am
, and all the while that was going on nobody contemplated using spoken initials as shorthand for names.
Fortunately, nor for me -- as first and middle equal "BS"! :( My father had no middle name, just the letter "B" and the 'must fill out the form" Mandarins compelled him to become "Bud" -- which he felt fit and became his go to name of choice! My Mother did the opposite -- hated her first name, reduced it to "B" and when the form fillers declined to accept it, she became 'Bee' and we now have a Queen Bee pillow for her Highness's chair!

Uncle Al, I'm old enough to remember "A Boy Named Sue" -- a number of smiles but I'm afraid it only solidified the gender stereotypes. I kind of like Stu's notion of folks having mixed gendered names; yet today we have so many that it is a challenge to return an email at times without pronoun issues! :?


'
Stu
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by Stu »

Faldaguy wrote:
Sun Feb 07, 2021 12:40 am
I'm old enough to remember "A Boy Named Sue" -- a number of smiles but I'm afraid it only solidified the gender stereotypes. I kind of like Stu's notion of folks having mixed gendered names; yet today we have so many that it is a challenge to return an email at times without pronoun issues! :?
Oddly enough, I was going to be called "Sue" (Susan) if I had turned out to be a girl.

But my parents ended up with "A Boy Named Stu" :D
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by denimini »

If someone says "You can call me anything except "late for dinner" ............. you know they are a male.
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Re: Names and Gender

Post by Tackleberry »

My first and middle name is from both my dads (Stewart) and middle name (Richard) my mums side...
My brothers first and middle name is picked from a hat... :lol:
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