Speaking of Cultural Appropriation …

… as I was here, I have a serious bone to pick with the parents of yore who broke the gender barrier by giving boy names to girl babies. There was a time when Ashley, Beverly, Evelyn, Leslie, Marion, Meredith, Merle, Shirley, and Vivian were boy names (exclusively or predominantly). The Brits even had girl-name equivalents for Leslie (Lesley) and Vivian (Vivien).

That was in the dim past. Naming has since gotten out of hand:

In 1910, just 5% of American babies named “Charlie” were girls. Over 100 years later, girl Charlies took over their male counterparts for the first time in 2016—making up 51% of the share.

With little fuss or fanfare, Charlie has gone gender-neutral….

Quartz analyzed the Social Security Administration’s public data on baby names to find out whether what happened with “Charlie” is an exception, or part of a wider trend. Our results show that, on average, the country is slowly moving toward using more gender-neutral names. And a few popular names are leading the way.

To analyze the trend, we calculated a “genderedness score” for every American baby name—and for the country on the whole. The score goes from zero to one. A zero means a name is perfectly non-gendered. That is to say, exactly half of the babies with that name are boys, and the other half are girls. A one, meanwhile, means the name is used exclusively for one gender. So a lower score means a name is more gender-neutral, and less biased.

“Biased”? What’s biased about calling a boy by a boy’s name and a girl by a girl’s name? The PC brigade to the contrary  notwithstanding, sex (a.k.a. gender) isn’t “assigned” at birth — it just is.

Anyway …

American parents have long had a strong preference for gendered names. The overall genderedness score was 0.97 in 1920, meaning nearly every kid had a name that was used almost exclusively for just boys or just girls. The score is falling, though. It hit 0.946 in 2016, the most recent year the SSA has name data for. The 1920 score is close to the historical average for names like “Billy,” “Selma,” and “Otis.” Names around the new—less gender-specific—number include “Jerry,” “Aden,” and “Orion.”

That’s another thing: Made-up names that have no historical roots. (And don’t get me started on “black” names.)

Continuing …

Several popular names, Charlie among them, are driving this trend [toward gender-neutrality]. No girls named “Blake” show up in the data at all until 1951. But today, one-quarter of American Blakes are female. And it’s not just boys’ names being given to girls, either. “Marion,” for example, has seen a major shift from girls to boys….

Many other popular names from the 2016 dataset are also gender-neutral, including “Finley,” “Justice,” and “Armani.” Here are the least-gendered 20, only including those with more than 500 babies with that name.

Name Gendered score Births
Charlie 0.02 3,448
Oakley 0.05 1,009
Justice 0.05 1,257
Landry 0.07 612
Armani 0.07 962
Skyler 0.09 1,667
Azariah 0.1 656
Finley 0.16 2,961
Royal 0.16 1,134
Lennon 0.19 1,095
Hayden 0.2 3,942
Casey 0.22 834
Emerson 0.23 3,163
Rowan 0.24 3,522
Baylor 0.24 548
Dakota 0.24 2,266
River 0.24 2,943
Remy 0.24 1,042
Emory 0.25 715
Phoenix 0.26 1,945

At the same time, some names are becoming more gendered. “Ashton” has gone from being pretty equal to primarily a boys’ name. “Harper” used to be more common for boys, but is now over 97% girls. And the most popular names from 2016 score high on the genderedness scale—Emma and Olivia at 0.99, and Scarlett and Victoria at 1.00, without a single boy.

Given that the average is moving the other way, though, it seems these mono-gendered choices are slowly becoming less popular. Gender-neutral options like Parker, Jordan, and Riley were among the top 100 in 2016.

Note the number of made-up names and names that (in saner times) would be thought of as masculine (e.g., Landry, Finley, Lennon, Casey, Emerson, Baylor, and Emory).

Unmentioned by the author is a phenomenon that would be obvious to an attentive reader: The appropriation of names (like cultural appropriation generally) is a one-way street. Girls get to do it (well, their parents do); boys just suffer in silence (or else) as their names become sissified.

You’ll know that the cultural revolution has succeeded when Emma, Scarlett, and Victoria become accepted as boys’ names.

Name Game

Any number can play. Think of word or phrase that’s not usually associated with a name and convert it to a person’s first or last name (middle initial optional). It can be a straightforward conversion, as in the first three examples, or a homonym, as in the fourth. The figures in parentheses show approximately how many Americans have each name.*

Armand Hammer (8)
E Z Money (1)
Harry Butt (17)
Harry Dogg (2, one Harold and one Henry)
Helen F. Troy (3)
Helen Wheels (3)
Helena Troy (6)
I. Cann or Kann (61, with various first names)
I. Kant (18, with various first names)
I.M. Fried (14)
I.M. Good (4)
Ida Katt (2)
Ima Dogg (1)
Ima Hamm (6)
Ima Hogg (6)
Ima Looney (2)
Iva Butt (0)
Iva Carr (17)
Iva Dollar (1)
Iva House (4)
Iva Legg (3)
Jack B. Quick (12)
Jane Roe or Rowe (180)
Jerry Cann or Kann (24, including Geralds and Gerrys)
John Doe (more than 98)
Johnny B. Good (19)
Joy S. Noel (2)
Mary Christmas (more than 98)
Red Herring (13, including persons with first names that shorten to Red)
Sieg(fried) Heil (1)
Sig Sauer (3, including persons with first names that shorten to Sig)
Silver Coyne (1)
Silver Dollar (8)
U. Cann or Kann (3, with various first names)
U. Kant (8, with various first names)
U.R. Good (1)
Vera Cruz (74)

These aren’t exact matches for familiar phrases, but they’re close:

Bob Apple (55)
Ivy Hall (4)
Wade Pool or Poole (22)
__________
* Estimates obtained by using People Search at Intelius.com. The figures are approximate because People Search isn’t error-free, dead persons are often listed, and there are some duplications.