Sex Roles

, Volume 32, Issue 11, pp 809-819

First online:

Increased choice of female phonetic attributes in first names

  • Herbert BarryJr.Affiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
  • , Aylene S. Harper

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The phonetic gender score is a new quantitative scale that was applied to the spoken sounds of first names. Popular names of females have predominantly positive scores, and popular names of males have predominantly negative scores. Mean phonetic gender scores were higher in 1990 than in 1960 for the 25 most frequent names given to females and males born in Pennsylvania. Choices of names were more diverse for females than males in both years and in 1990 than 1960 for both genders. The increased choice in 1990 of attributes associated with females may indicate greater acceptance of female characteristics in 1990 than in 1960. In 1990 the most numerous racial minority, African Americans, constituted 15% of the births but only 5% of the females and 7% of the males given the 25 most frequent names.