Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Most popular baby names from last decade decoded

Date:
June 5, 2013
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
Names can provide a clue to a person's background. And, with certain names come certain preconceptions. But could a parent's choice of name for their child be influenced by evolution? Scientists analyzed the most popular baby names from the last decade to decode the link between the sounds in a name and the sex, in a new article.

Names can provide a clue to a person's background, and with certain names come certain preconceptions. But could a parent's choice of name for their child be influenced by evolution? Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London analysed the most popular baby names from the last decade to decode the link between the sounds in a name and the sex, in a new paper published in the journal PLOS ONE today.

They found that male names are far more likely to contain broad, larger sounding vowels that are emphasised when spoken, while female names are smaller sounding in comparison. This effect results in names, such as Thomas or Tom being considered more masculine and more suitable for boys, whereas names such as Emily are considered feminine and given to girls.

"The origins of names may vary but this study suggests that there is an association between the size of the sounds in first names and the sex they are associated with," explains co-author Benjamin Pitcher from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

The data shows that larger sounding names are a popular choice for parents when it comes to naming their sons, who might associate the name size with masculine qualities. In mammals, including humans, deeper sounding vocalisations are typically associated with larger individuals and high frequencies with smaller ones.

Dr Pitcher adds: "In general, western societies tend to think of relatively taller men as more masculine and more successful with the opposite sex whereas shorter, slimmer women are perceived as having attractive feminine qualities. It seems that over time the English language has developed a preference for names that reflect our society's attitudes of what we deem to be attractive qualities in the different sexes."

Dr Alex Mesoudi, co-author of the paper and now based at Durham University's Department of Anthropology, adds: "This is an interesting example of how biological evolution can influence human culture, in this case naming conventions."

The researchers examined a 10-year dataset of the most popular names from England, Australia and the United States, which represents nearly a third of all births during that time period (15 million names from around 45 million births). They used recognised techniques from linguistics to determine whether names contained large or small vowel sounds.

Dr Alan McElligott, also from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "An evolutionary perspective might be that parents are choosing names that help to boost their son or daughter's success in life by increasing the chance of passing on their genes. In the future, we are interested in determining whether this gender bias in vowel sounds of first names is also seen in languages other than English.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Benjamin J. Pitcher, Alex Mesoudi, Alan G. McElligott. Sex-Biased Sound Symbolism in English-Language First Names. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e64825 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064825

Cite This Page:

Queen Mary, University of London. "Most popular baby names from last decade decoded." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605190203.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2013, June 5). Most popular baby names from last decade decoded. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605190203.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "Most popular baby names from last decade decoded." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605190203.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?

Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) A new study shows stress at work can be hard on your health, but people who are unemployed might be at even greater risk of health problems. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Google says it is following Europe's new "Right To Be Forgotten Law," which eliminates user information upon request, but only to a certain degree. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stroke Signs: Three Hour Deadline

Stroke Signs: Three Hour Deadline

Ivanhoe (July 31, 2014) Sometimes the signs of a stroke are far from easy to recognize. Learn from one young father’s story on the signs of a stroke. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Grain Brain May Be Harming Us

Grain Brain May Be Harming Us

Ivanhoe (July 31, 2014) Could eating carbohydrates be harmful to our brain health? Find out what one neurologist says about changing our diets. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins