[DWJ] In which I satisfy the curious (I hope!)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Wed Sep 20 11:27:46 EDT 2006

>|On Wed, Sep 20, 2006 at 09:46:06AM -0400, deborah.dwj at suberic.net wrote:
>|>My friend the linguist has a nacsent theory about why fantasyland
>|>girls' names tend to end with "a" out of all proportion to girls'
>|>names in the cultures that fantasyland emulates.  Perhaps it
>|>deserves and entry in the Tough Guide. :)

Roger prompted

>|G'won g'won _do_ tell!

Deborah replied:
>I'm not sure of the details, and he's only just started looking
>into it. I speculate it's because in our imaginary notion of what
>names of some light differs from reality. Maybe it's left over
>from something biblical? Hebrew women's names tend to end with
>"a" and the men's names don't. I will ask him, though.

This has to be Western theory, or at least not-Japanese, because don't
female Japanese names tend to end with an "o" sound?

It may relate as much to the Latin or Greek as to the Hebrew, I would have
thought, in much of Europe.  The examples that spring to mind are ones like
"Drusillus" and "Drusilla", "Augustus" and "Augusta", "Flavian" and
"Flavia" and such, and "Alexander" and "Alexandra".  In fact, I can't think
of a single boys' name ending in "a", though no doubt as soon as I have
sent this one will come wandering over, probably chewing gum....

Attilla.  I have never heard it used in England and it isn't in any of the
"name your baby" books I have around the place, but it does exist.
(Actually, I went and looked in the books-of-names at this point, and apart
from Attilla, which wasn't there, all the boys' names I found ending in "a"
came from the Hebrew: Amasa, Asa, Elijah, Elisha, Ira, Joshua, Josiah,
Zachariah and Zedekiah -- I'm counting "ah" as "a-really", but I don't
think that's cheating *too* much.)

Oh well, bang goes the idea that boys' names just don't end in a, but I
think it is still true that if casting about for a feminine ending for a
male name, the English-speaking-or-European tendency is to put either an a
or something ending in an a onto it -- as in Rupert(a), and Wilhelm(ina),
and Robert(a), and Thomas(ina), and Henry(ietta), and Carl(a), and
Philip(pa), and Frederick(ica) and Paul(a).

This might explain why when inventing a name for a girl fantasy writers
might tend to slap an "a" on the end, mightn't it?  It's just
what-one-does.  As it were.


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