October 8, 2020

Why I Divide Name Lists by Boys and Girls

It's the sometimes-spoken question of the hour: Why all the naming division? After all, dividing names by sex can cause controversy, hurt feelings, and seem like it supports gender stereotyping. 

Those are things I'd rather not do. Yet, I persist. When I'm talking about a big group of names, I usually create two lists, one of boys' names, and one of girls' names. WHY, you ask? (Or, sometimes, it's more like, "WHyyyyyyyyyYYYYYYYyyyy??!")

It's like this.

I have a background in infographic design. Chances are, when I say infographics you think of a really cool Pinterest-worthy flow chart that helps you find the answer to questions like "Can we date?" But what I'm  talking about are boring ol' things like pie charts, tables, line graphs, and scatter plots. While I do know how to create them and I appreciate the fancy ones, designers who work with information should have the basics down. Let's just say I've been to the conference.

People Need Organization

So I have eyes that like to see information organized, but so do you. We all find this helpful. Think about the last baby name book you picked up. My guess is that all of those names were organized in more ways than one.

A list of baby names is usually alphabetical and divided into sections of boys and girls. There are plenty of exceptions to this, but for the most part this is the most common approach. It's the most common because it's the most helpful. An unorganized pile of names is the stuff of nightmares for people looking for that perfect name - whether it's for a child, pet, or story character.

There are a few problems readers may come across when looking at names organized by sex. Where do parents look for unisex names? What if your son's name is Peyton and you see his name in the girl column? What if a person is *gasp* offended by seeing the name Eden listed for boys? What if another person is considering Eden for a boy, and only finds it in the girls section?

Okay. I feel your pain, I really do.

Your list of top 5 choices for boys and girls are different, are they not? Even if unisex names are your thing (and more power to you!), you might still have separate lists based on how the name "feels" to you. You organize your own lists of baby names, and I organize lists for my readers as well. 😊

A Solution to Unisex Names

So my solution is, from this point forward, to attempt to repeat gender-neutral-ish names in both columns for girls and boys. Maybe you caught another dilemma there—who am I to decide which names are leaning unisex? 

As always, I can find the answer in statistics. If the name is in the top 500 for both boys and girls, it'll be cross-listed. Whadda ya say?

I hope this answers your questions and that we can all agree on this approach. 

Yours truly,
General fare-thee-wells,

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