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ICOS 2008 Conference Abstract

Female Names and Male Names. Equality between the Sexes

Author(s):
E Brylla
Institutet för språk och folkminnen, Sweden


A recent contribution to the discussion about equality between the sexes in Sweden concerns the question whether given names should be related to biological sex. The usual pattern of given names in the Germanic world involves a pronounced difference between female and male names. Eliminating this sex-typed naming custom would have a radical impact on the language.
One function of given names is to individualize. They serve a practical purpose. Gender-neutral names may for obvious reasons create problems. In some countries, unisex names are even forbidden.
The question is whether abolishing sex-typed given names would in practice promote equality between the sexes. Unisex names often tend to evolve from masculine to unisex to feminine names. Sex stereotyping is more rigidly applied to boys than to girls and it is not certain that boys will be given female names as frequently as girls are given male ones.

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