Illustration for article titled Is A Boys Name Best On A Girl?

Having the name Jennifer led to a lot grade school confusion (the teacher would say "Jennifer" and a quarter of the class would reply), but at least everyone assumes you are a girl. Generations to come will deal with the emerging trend of girls getting boy names, claims The New York Times. Names that were historically associated with boys are being given to girls (creating an older generation of bitter old men being told they have girl names!) "Not long after a boy's name catches on with girls, parents shy away from christening sons with it," says the Times. But boys aren't taking on girl names. At "best," names simply become gender neutral. For example: "Jordan has appeared in the Top 100 most popular names for both sexes since 1989, and other modern unisex names coexist peacefully, too. Angel, overwhelmingly male until the mid-'50s, became popular for girls around 1972." It isn't just about changes in taste (names do go in and out of fashion) — are parents perpetuating the myth that only boys are strong?


Are they hoping to trick society into believing their daughters are equipped with these attributes — by giving them traditionally masculine names? And do parents doom a son to a life of failure by giving him a "girl name"?

Masculine names are often associated with success, for instance, which might explain why parents historically chose androgynous names for girls. As for boys, [UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian] says that today "some traditionally feminine characteristics may be seen as desirable in men, like caring and giving." Given the desirability of those traits, at least for some, parents may be less shy about naming a boy Brooke, Taylor or Morgan than in previous decades, when the "feminine" connotations of those names might have come at a social cost — the potential loss of status, jobs or friends. Or as Aileen Nilsen, the Names Society co-president, puts it, "It's not a disgrace to be a girl anymore."


Ugh, thanks, Aileen. So which is it? Is it better to be a strong woman with a traditionally female name, proving that chicks rule? Or is it better to be a girl with a masculine or "neutral" name, so that people don't assume you are a delicate flower?

What's In A Name? [NYT]

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