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Dr Benjamin Pitcher, from the University of London, analysed the most popular names in the UK, Australia, and the US, and found that boys names are more likely to have “large” vowel sounds, while girls are more likely to have “small” vowel sounds in their names. Larger sounding vowels pull the tongue to the back of the mouth, creating more airspace and releasing lower frequency sounds, while smaller vowels force the tongue forwards and upwards, giving high pitched sounds. Examples of “large” vowels in names include Jack, Lachlan, Cooper, Noah and Tom, while “small” vowels can be found in Isabella, Olivia, Mia, Lily and Ella. Dr Pitcher says this is an example of biological evolution, but only looked at names between 2001 and 2010, which doesn’t seem like enough of a time period to evolve in. I was interested to see that a Dr Pitcher would end up studying pitch, and that his first name, Benjamin, tends towards the more feminine vowels.
More studies into gender differences in names show that in English-speaking countries, girls names tend to be longer, to have unstressed “weak” initial syllables, end on a vowel sound, and to have more vowel sounds generally. It is thus supposed that girls names are more “decorative”, and boys names more “functional”. I wonder what they think in non-English countries, because in India, Arabic countries, and Polynesian islands, male names are often just as long and vowel-heavy as female ones, and I’m sure they don’t think of their boys names as “weak” or “girly”. Perhaps we should we be asking ourselves why we see our girls names as “weak and decorative” – it probably says a lot more about our own attitudes than it does about their vowels. Because take away all our value judgements, and there is no real reason while a girls name like Jane is “stronger” and more “functional” than one such as Olivia or Isabella.
The invented word Khaleesi, from Game of Thrones, has the meaning of “queen” in the fictional Dothraki language, although it is a title and not a personal name. Khaleesi has been used as a baby name since the TV show aired in Australia, and it turns out that it is more popular in Queensland – 15 babies named Khaleesi have been born in Queensland so far this year, compared to 4 each in Victoria and South Australia, and 6 in New South Wales. Could it be the meaning of “queen” which unconsciously makes it more appealing to Queenslanders? Two Queensland fans of the show who chose the name for their daughter say that they couldn’t agree on any name until the first season of Game of Thrones began airing. They thought Khaleesi was a really nice name which would be suitable for an adult too, and found out the spelling from the show’s website. Makes you wonder what all these Khaleesis would be called if the books hadn’t been turned into a TV series …
The town of Busselton on Western Australia’s south-west coast has a social group for women named June, and on June 1 each year, they celebrate Happy June Day. (Because if the first of May is May Day, then obviously the first of June is June Day … right?) In existence since 2010, this year eight women named June got together for a cuppa and to find out what else they have in common. Two of the Junes were born in June (well, actually, one of them was born on May 31, but so close to midnight it was practically June). One of the Junes has four children born during the month of June, half the Junes had a mother named Mary, and two Junes have a sister named Barbara. June peaked in the 1930s at #10, and this is something cool to look forward to if you have a popular name – starting your own name group.
This year’s mission for the Junes was to see more newborn babies named June – a wish which was granted instantly, because after a friend sent her the story about June Day in the Busselton paper, Eleisha Whiston contacted the June group to tell them she named her daughter June on May 25. Baby June is named after her 83-year-old great-grandmother, who was born in June. Her brother Hugo also has a June birthday. The Happy Junes were “overwhelmed” to hear of a new June so soon. You know what? June is a lovely name. Seriously consider having a little June – no matter what the moon, or whether born at morn or afternoon, that name would be a real boon, bringing great fortune. Then every day would mean a Happy June.
Meanwhile, Dave Noonan from Hobart’s Heart 107.3 radio station became alarmed at the thought that his own name might die out, and initiated a Save Dave campaign, to convince the women of Hobart to call their sons Dave. Eventually, Matt and Melissa Moore welcomed their son at 4.33 am on July 19, and named him David Xander, to be rewarded with a newly-renovated kitchen. Melissa plans to call her son Davey as his nickname, which she finds “cuter”, making the contest seem a bit pointless.
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