"Tristan" now feminine given name

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Feb 24 19:43:12 UTC 2006

On Feb 24, 2006, at 5:32 AM, Jim Landau wrote:

> /'ker ee/ to me is a boy's name, probably because my father for many
> years worked for a man named Cary Robertson.
> In high school I had male classmates named Carroll and Lynn.  Lynn,
> as I
> recall, got kidded not for his first name but for his surname,
> which was
> Seltzer...

a note about where so many of these male names come from (in case
someone hasn't already said this): there is a long-standing tradition
in (parts of) the english-speaking world of giving boys first or
middle names that are family names; sometimes those middle names are
used as first names (as in the case of my first father-in-law, who
was James Keene Daingerfield, Jr. but was always called Keene, to
distinguish him from his father).   Keene's grandfather, in fact, was
named Foxhall Daingerfield, Foxhall being a family name.  to make
this more entertaining, James R. Keene, for whom Keene's father was
named, named *his* first son Foxhall Daingerfield Keene.  sort of a
nomenclatural cross-fertilization.

in any case, names like Beverly, Cary, Carroll, Lynn, and many many
others started out as family names, and were converted into first
names for boys.  meanwhile, there's a more-or-less constant flow of
boy's names being adoped for girls (and practically no flow in the
opposite direction, for obvious reasons); this affects long-standing
boy's names like Robin and also converted family names like Beverly.
once these names cease to be seen as clearly boy's names, they are
likely to become almost 100% girl's names (this is the Flight From
the Feminine), with perhaps a few relic uses for boys in upper-class

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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