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Ask Baby Names

Baby name advice from Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com. Have a question for Jennifer? E-mail it to question@babynames.com

Baby Name Gender Crossover

Dear Jennifer,

I’ve noticed that it’s okay for names to crossover from boys to girls, but not vice versa. Why do you think that is?

Thanks,
Tracey,

Dear Tracey,

I’m not a gender or sociology expert by any means, but I can give my observations from a historical perspective. Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 8.36.21 AMTraits associated with females, historically, were weakness, lower intelligence, and frailty. Conversely, men were considered stronger, more intelligent, and powerful. So in surges of the women’s movement, when females gained power and demonstrated that they were just as strong and intelligent as men, it was acceptable to take on other male traits too. In fashion, for example, it’s socially acceptable for women to wear pants, but still not the norm for men to wear skirts or dresses.

The same goes for names. In fact your name was originally male and like Ashley, Whitney, and Leslie, were early crossovers to the female gender. Probably because they ended in the diminutive (ie/ey/y) and contained softer consonants. Nowadays, though, that doesn’t even matter. We see women named Michael, Lincoln, Harper, Kyle, Ryan, and many other names that are historically male. There is no stigma.

In recent years, gender fluidity has become more acceptable. But I still think it will be a while before we see a boy named Lillian or Sophia.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

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