Guessing the gender based on first name

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Bob McLaughlin, Aug 22, 2006.

  1. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Screenwriter

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    Increasingly in today's e-mail environment, I am sending and receiving e-mails to people who I have never met or seen, nor spoken to. All I have is their name, and that doesn't always give me enough to go by, especially for names that are not vanilla American names.

    Asian names in particular can be baffling. This is not meant to be a knock against Asians, I am just admitting ignorance here. Often I will not know whether to refer to a person as a "he" or a "she" when forwarding the e-mail to another party. For example, is the name "Ninh-Kieu" male or female?

    Is there a site where I can enter a non-American first name, and would it tell me whether that was typically a male or female name?
     
  2. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    It is a problem. Personally, I worry more about "Lauren" and "Madison" than I do about Asian names, because there's likely to be more of an understanding gap anyway with those whose first languages are not English, and Asian languages tend to have no concept of gender anyway. [Strictly speaking, there are forms of speech which have to do with gender, but they mostly involve the person speaking.]
    If you know the language involved, the answer is yes. For example, nearly all Japanese personal names ending in "-ko" are women's names, while names ending in "-ro" or "-o" are usually men's (there are a few exceptional men's names in "-ko" and womens with "-o"). On the other hand, names such as "Hikaru" can be perfectly gender-neutral, and the Japanese themselves get into confusion on this issue. Similar rules hold, I believe, for other Asian languages, but I don't know them.
     
  3. mylan

    mylan Screenwriter

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    I know a couple with a girl named Peyton and another with a boy named Payton, the only difference is the spelling, the only clue would be Payton, the boy, is named after Payton Manning.
     
  4. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    Husband and wife clients of mine are named Sherman and Robin......Robin is the he......which isn't too unusual, but Sherman for the Mrs?

    Mort
     
  5. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    sure you dont have the two names mixed up? it's spelled peyton manning.

    CJ
     
  6. mylan

    mylan Screenwriter

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    Did not know the correct spelling, so yes, I do have them mixed up. I don't see their names written enough to know the difference but they are pronounced the same.
     
  7. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Never assume that someone named "Kelly" is female.

    I work with a guy named Kelly and, without fail, every piece of mail or message he gets from someone who hasn't met him before is addressed to Ms. Kelly _______. If you're submitting your resume for a job, that's not the way to make a good first impression.

    I also went to HS with a guy named Kelly.
     
  8. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

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    The first name of a male teacher I had from a while back was Kim. He apparently got Victoria's Secret catalogs in the mail.
     
  9. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    Why do you have to use "he" or "she" when forwarding email?
     
  10. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I worked with a woman named Kevin.

    I know a guy dating a woman named Lari (pronounced "Larry")

    I could be a woman thanks to Cameron Diaz; at one time I thought it would be funny if I married a woman named Cameron, had a son and daughter and named them Cameron also.

    I don't know of a way to figure out Chinese names as male or female without knowing the meaning of the words. The problem is in the romanization of a tonal language. My Chinese name means "national hero" which is understood as a male name. My female cousin's is "Full Moon," which, aside from losing something in the translation, is considered a beautiful name for a woman.
     
  11. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Ah, yes, that's another one. A Japanese name ending in "-ko" is a man's name if it's "-hiko", meaning prince or hero.
    I think one could get to recognise the Roman orthographies of the more common Chinese name-element characters, assuming a consistent Romanisation were used, which of course it is not. The official Chinese government system frankly intimidates me, with an accent mark over the letter "a" which looks like a pagoda or something. That's one reason why I chose to study Japanese : even with all the homographs, the spoken language is much easier for me. Speech is the fundamental phenomenon of language, and even with such a well-developed written language as the Chinese, it is not pleasant to try to gain entree without some sound to attach to the character.
     
  12. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Tell me about it. My name, as Anglicized, seems to be rather androgynous, and I have received junk mail addressed to Ms Lim. Funnier yet, I once received a phone call from a lady who no doubt had been instructed to call me, but from the name she was expecting a woman to answer, then when she got me, she sounded quite stunned.

    To refer to "Asian" names is, with respect, overgeneralisation. The various Asian languages and cultures can be very different, and some no doubt have suffixes or other modifiers that make it unmistakable as to whether the person is male or female (off the top of my head, I think the Burmese have a fixed way of naming that makes things very clear, as do the Balinese), whereas others have all androgynous names, e.g. the Sikhs, and you'd only tell male from female since all men include "Singh" in their names whilst all women have "Kaur" -- I've met a "Mr Sarjit Singh", and a "Ms Sarjit Kaur", just to give you an idea as to how it works for them.

    As for "Kelly", wasn't The Donald's second or third Apprentice an ex-Marine called Kelly? No mistaking him for a woman...

    Actually, a lot of (Western/Anglo) male names have over the years become androgynous, then female. For instance, Ashley in the US is now probably considered a girl's name, yet England's first-choice left-back (for avoidance of doubt, in men's football/soccer) is one Ashley Cole. Evelyn Waugh was a famous male writer, but that too is now a woman's name. Likewise Hilary (eg the senator from NY). Robin and Kelly are now rather androgynous, tipping towards female.

    Are there any cases of names going the other way, originally female, now male? Can't think of any.
     
  13. Lynda-Marie

    Lynda-Marie Supporting Actor

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    Being able to "tell" whether someone is male or female by their first name is futile. I'll tell you why:

    I worked as an answering service operator for 6 1/2 years. We answered for doctors, lawyers, shipping companies, plumbers, electricians... just about every type of business you can imagine.

    We marked whether the person who called was (M) or (F) by making that notation after the person's name, but only if you could tell VOCALLY, whether that caller was a male or female. I had a very irate, older, chain-smoking WOMAN hollering very loudly when I called her "sir," by mistake (!).

    One of the worst cases was a law firm we answered for. They had an associate named "Chris Smith." Our customer service reps, who set up the account, were very good about marking the gender of the firm's associates, so we would not mess up when taking the messages. But three nights running, "Chris Smith" caused me no end of troubles. At first, "Chris Smith" was marked with an (M) after "his" name.

    We were expected to be professional, and rather than saying something like "They are closed," we were expected to use a form of persuasion to get people to leave messages, such as, "Chris will be checking with me, where can he return your call?"

    The guy who called freaked out, and started screaming at me that Chris was DEFINITELY a woman, how dare you... etc., etc., etc. Much chastened, I left a message with our head of customer service, who was a good friend of mine. He fixed the problem that very day, and I thought I was in the clear.

    Next night, same thing, with a slight difference, "Chris will be checking with me, where can she return your call?"

    Different caller, same response, "Chris is a MAN, how dare you..." and so on and so forth.

    There were forehead prints on my console after that night, and I left another message for my customer service buddy, asking if perhaps there were TWO Chris Smiths who were associates of this law firm, one man, one woman. I also snidely wondered, and my friend wisely declined to ask, if perhaps "Chris" was in the middle of gender altering surgery, and had friends, family, colleagues, and clients confused as to which gender Chris actually was.
     
  14. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    My father's name is Si Wing... There are some marketing firms who think it is an abbreviation for Sister. So imagine the shock that they have when they find out that my father is not only not female, that he's not a nun either. [​IMG]

    Jay
     
  15. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    What I don't get is why people got so bent out of shape about it when the mistake is not made about them personally. Also I've always found it interesting that we as people put so much stock in our gender. On one hand it makes perfect sense, but on the other it's befuddling when I hear about people getting SO insulted for an honest mistake.
     
  16. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Happens all the time, people think I am a guy.

    --
    H
     
  17. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Screenwriter

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    It's ironic, I started this thread and didn't even think to mention that my wife's real first name is "Tommie". We get sales calls and junk mail that refer to "Mr. Tommie McLaughlin" all the time.

    Chris, I try to avoid using gender specific words in my e-mails but sometimes it gets awkward to just keep using the person's name. Such as "Ninh-Kieu needs an answer on this today. Can you please help Ninh-Kieu with Ninh-Kieu's request? I told Ninh-Kieu that you would be responding directly to Ninh-Kieu." Those sentences are just crying out to have a "him", a "his" or a "her" used instead of repeating the name!
     
  18. Raasean Asaad

    Raasean Asaad Supporting Actor

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    My grandmothers name is Johnnie, I always thought it was kind of cute. I have a big problem with the generalization and homogenizing of America. Everyone seems to want to dress the same and talk the same and be named the same thing.
     
  19. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Yep, I've also worked with women named Michael, Cory, and Marty.

    Beverly, too.
     
  20. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    My friends parents were Jan and Joelynn. Jan was the father and Joelynn was the mother. Of course, everyone got their names mixed up when my friend would introduce his parents as "Jan & Joe" [​IMG]
     

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