Category: Spellings, Sounds and Initials
By Gay Cioffi
Just as in real estate where the three most important things are: LOCATION… LOCATION…. LOCATION, when bestowing a name on a baby the three most important things are: PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION… PRONUNCIATION.
As a person whose last name is almost never pronounced correctly, Cioffi (the Ci is like Ch and …oh, if only I had a buck for every time I have had to say that!!), I know that navigating the social territory of “when and how often to correct” those who mispronounce it is tricky, to say the least. I had a third grade teacher who pronounced it KEY-OFF and I cringed every time I was called on for the entire school year.
It’s been noted before that one of the most striking trends when analyzing American baby names is the rise in popularity of boys’ names ending with the letter ‘n’ over the past few decades. What I haven’t seen is a visualization that truly demonstrates the scale of this phenomenon. And for a good reason; it’s difficult to show trends over time in 26 variables. So I made this animated GIF of bar graphs; pay attention to the ‘n’ after the mid-70s.
We may not control what race or gender we bequeath our offspring (unless, of course, we are utilizing a sperm bank in the Empire State Building for IVF), but we do have say over their names. If you play it safe with Bill or Lisa, it probably means your kids will be marginally more likely to avoid risk, too. If you’re like us and name them E or Yo, they are likely to grow up into weirdoes like their parents—or at least not work in middle management.
Alliterative names – first/middle/last names starting with the same letter/sound – is a subject that many people have strong feelings about. Some people love them, some hate them with a passion.
For those who hate them, there really only seems to be one argument against them. They are just too cutesy and “matchy-matchy” and make it too hard to take a person seriously. These people actively avoid giving this name configuration to their children.
Others love them for almost the same reason they are hated – because they are cute and snazzy sounding. This makes them fun, easier to remember and hence more memorable. Being more memorable makes them perfect for celebrities, superheroes, wrestlers and fictional characters. J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter is full of alliterative names. Just look at such examples as Luna Lovegood, Severus Snape, Dudley Dursley and Minerva McGonagall. And have you ever paid much attention to the founders of the four houses at Hogwarts? All four have alliterative names. HBO show Girls is another example that may have slipped most people’s notice. All four of the lead characters also have alliterative names.
I previously compared the popularity of girl names that began with the “S” and “Sh” sounds. Here are the boys!
As I explained last week, to do this research, I used the S and Sh names with percentage of use above 0.01% since 1938*. This cutoff was chosen because the Top 1000 in 2012 include names with a percentage higher than 0.0131% for girls and 0.0098% for boys. Because the S and Sh sounds are not exclusive to the letters S and Sh, I also added the names that begin with the letter C that have the S sounds (there were no Ch boy names that had the Sh sound). This can be subjective as some of the names can be pronounced with either the S/Sh sound, but I went with what I thought would be the mostly likely sound heard.