I Name This Child..............
By Maureen Storey
This article was originally published in the April 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Every year a list of the most popular names in the last 12 months appears in the newspaper and this prompted me to take a look at the distribution of forenames in years gone by. I should, however, add the rider that the survey only covers the families in my part of the Sole and variants index and may therefore be biased by regional differences.
My index has just over 7000 entries and the table shows the 20 most popular names for girls and boys.
I was mildly surprised to find the Johns outnumbering the Williams but more so to find that Charles, Robert and Richard were more popular than Henry. I would have expected there to be more girls called Alice and Frances and fewer named Dorothy and Joan.
The table includes 2981 boys and 1917 girls. It seems unlikely that this reflects the proportion of boys to girls in the index, so I presume parents are more adventurous when it comes to naming daughters. To confirm this Iíd need to split the index into male and female sections but this isnít as straightforward as it may seem. Where names nowadays have recognised male and female forms, such as Francis/Frances, Leslie/Lesley, people didnít always make these distinctions and there are, for example, a number of females who spelt their name Francis. In addition some names have changed gender over the years: the earliest occurrences of Joy in the index are all male.
In the American section of the index in particular there are many names that give few clues to gender. These fall largely into three classes: family surnames used as forenames, obscure biblical and classical names and Puritan names.
Both boys and girls are often given family surnames as middle names (e.g. Elizabeth Parker Soule) but if a family surname is given as the only forename then it is generally to a boy. It is fairly safe to assume that Prime Sole, Howland Soule and even Beech Carter Soule were all boys. However, Iím not so sure about Ansyl Clark Soule Ė Iíve not come across Ansyl as a surname, so this could be just a piece of imaginative naming by the parents.
Classical and obscure biblical names are a particular problem because itís often hard to track down the relevant source and hence determine gender. Even Latin names, where itís usually safe to assume a name ending in Ďaí is feminine and one in Ďusí is masculine, can trap the unwary Ė young Seneca Soule would no doubt be affronted to be called a girl.
How many of the following would you have been able to identify with certainty as male or female: Jeduthan (male), Jehiel (male), Pelatiah (male), Peleg (male), Penthia (female), Abishai (male), Zeruiah (female), Philaster (male), Asenath (female), Beza (male). Micajah has so far defeated me. Does anyone know if this is masculine or feminine?
The Puritan names present perhaps the greatest challenge of all, especially as some of them are used for both boys and girls. The following all occur among the descendants of George Soule of the Mayflower:
Hopestill, Deliverance, Consider, Thankful, Pardon, Rejoice, Reliance, Constant, Silence, Excuse (the diminutive of which is Squcie), Remembrance, Preserved, Experience, Recompense, Content, Winter.
How many can you correctly identify as male or female (answers at the end of the article)?
Sometimes the name chosen by parents seems to be, to say the least, unwise. Were the parents of Philander Soule and Freelove Soule tempting providence? Can you imagine the level of teasing that Pardon Soule, King Sole and Squire Sole had to endure at school? And, given the wide variety of names to choose from, whatever possessed the parents of Henchman Sowle, Hazard Soule, Elijah Weed Soule and Gotobed Sole?
Answers: Hopestill (female), Deliverance (female), Consider (male), Thankful (both), Pardon (male), Rejoice (female), Reliance (female), Constant (both), Silence (female), Excuse (female), Remembrance (male), Preserved (male), Experience (female), Recompense (male), Content (female), Winter (male)
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