I recently got into a dispute with a friend over whether or not Skyler was primarily a boy’s or a girl’s name. Based on my own experience, I told her that the reason she thought of it as a girl’s name was purely anecdotal; I, on the other hand, was not so subjective (of course!).
Of course, indeed. Turns out I was wrong. Well, technically I am still able to argue that I was correct, since I had the spelling above in mind when we were talking about it, but Skylar is a more common homophone variant of the name. While Skyler is 56/44 in boys’ favor, Skylar is overwhelmingly feminine at 79/21.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in onomastic contemplation about the children it seems I’ll never get around to having. To add a little rigor to that vain pondering, I turned to Baby Naming Wizard, a neat site that shows the frequency of baby names given over time and by sex. The following table shows how relatively masculine an arbitrary but fairly inclusive list of androgynous names (based on those I’ve known to be given to both boys and girls) are by showing the percentage of each name given to boys during the name’s most popular point in time for boys compared to the name’s most popular point in time for girls*. Thus those on the top of the list are most skewed in favor of males; those on the bottom are most heavily female:
|Name||% Boy||% Girl|
Two-thirds of the androgynous names on this list are primarily girls’ names. I’m not sure if that’s simply the result of the list being based on my own personal experience, or if most names (at least in English) applicable to either sex tend to be given to females.
Despite long, successful acting careers, Morgan Freeman, Drew Barrymore, and Cameron Diaz have not been able to affect a shift in the feminine and masculine tendencies of their respective first names. Peyton has rocketed upwards among boys since the turn of the century, in concert with Peyton Manning’s decade-long position as one of the best quarterbacks in football. However, it also hasn’t been enough (at least not yet, and at best Manning realistically only has another five years or so at the top of the pile).
Lindsey/Lindsay, Loren/Lauren, and Sean/Shawn probably don’t merit inclusion on this putatively androgynous list. The guys I know named Lindsey and Loren and the girls I know named Shawn, Logan, and Christian (not short for anything) are apparently all aberrations. Setting the androgyny threshold at no fewer than one in every ten names being given to the minority sex, Kennedy should also go.
The only women named Pat I’ve known are old enough to be my grandmother, but in tribute to the infamous SNL character, I looked it up. To my surprise, Pat has historically been a feminine name. Only in the latter half of the 20th century did the name Patrick rise in popularity, displacing female variants of Pat that all began falling off precipitously in the forties to such an extent that by the time Julie Sweeney began sketching the unappealing creature in the early nineties, Pat (or some extension of it) was being given to boys at a 5-to-1 ratio.
If some sick bastard wanted to reincarnate a contemporary Pat-like character, Casey/Kasey would be the best name to give it (although the audience would necessarily never have view of its written name).
Until the early 1900s, Sidney/Sydney was a masculine name, but by the 1950s, the Sydney variation had nearly gone extinct, and Sidney continued to decline steadily. Until the early 1980s, it was virtually unheard of for a girl to be given either variation of the name. Since that point in time, it has exploded in popularity among girls. Consequently, among those born in the last three decades, the name should not be considered androgynous at all–it is now almost exclusively a girls’ name. And for the better, I say. Sydney Carton is one of the most pitiful male characters in all of English literature (Dickens couldn’t even give him the decency of being named “Sidney”)! Let the ladies have it.
* The following table shows the distributions for androgynous names and their variant spellings. For the two names included in the list that are frequently used as shorthand for something fuller, those frequently occuring fuller names are counted in the shorter name’s total tally. “Pat” includes Patrick for boys; Patty, Patricia, Patsy, and Patti for girls. “Alex” includes Alexander and Alexis for boys; Alexandra, Alexandria, Alexus, Alexis, Alexa, and Alexia for girls.
|Name||% Boy||% Girl|