Why Don't Boys' Names Make Us Sing?
Say these names aloud: Susanna, Billie Jean, Roxanne. Were you tempted to break into song?
A catchy tune can weld itself to a name in our memories. Any Susanna or Roxanne -- or Rhonda, or sweet Caroline -- will tell you that she's serenaded wherever she goes. Yet when I wrote about "Names That Make You Sing," I was only able to find two similarly songified boys' names: (Hey) Jude and (Louie) Louie. Readers came up with more names I'd missed, but their suggestions were female-dominated as well.
Why? The rhythm of girls' names, which are more likely to end in vowels or have a stressed last syllable, could be one factor. A tradition of male singers serenading lady loves could be another. But a gender imbalance persists even when you factor out vowels and love songs.
Looking back over the song-inducing names, I've realized that there's a second hidden trend. Below are the names that BabyNameWizard.com readers and I identified as irresistibly singable, with the sex of the name and of the singer. (A "-" indicates both male and female singers, e.g. folk tunes like "O, Susanna" and names that summon multiple songs, like Gloria.)
The name list is overwhelmingly female, with 29 girls' names and just 5 boys . But the singers list is even more overwhelmingly male, by a count of 26-1. The only name on the list that plays a female voice in our mental jukebox is also the most recent: Alejandro, a 2010 Lady Gaga song. It remains to be seen whether that song will prove memorable enough to stay on the long-term playlist.
In part, this reflects the predominance of male voices in popular music. Depending on how you measure, male singers represent 60-75% of the pop charts, and even higher percentages in rock, hip-hop and country. 26-1, though, still looks like a mighty extreme ratio.
For some reason, women haven't been singing names. With most name songs addressed to the opposite sex, more tunes by women might help even out the list and get some boys' names stuck on mental replay.