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Hurricane Earl is going to move up the east coast of the USA this week, reaching Canadian waters, still a hurricane, this weekend.
Evacuation orders have already been given for tourists on Ocracoke Island. Other communities are considering evacuation orders.
Please do keep an ear out for orders in your community; have a plan on where to go and what to take, and stay safe.
The local news reporters are already migrating to the Outer Banks down here, to document that everything looks great right now but that Conditions May Change Later. The storm is predicted to remain at least 100 miles offshore from the Outer Banks, but high surf and beach erosion, with some minor flooding, is about all that's expected at this time.
Ocracoke is being evacuated now because it's accessible only by ferry and the evacuation time is the longest of any of the NC barrier islands.
The Hurricane of '38
The Jamaican proverb Jim cites in the title runs:
June, too soon;
July, 'tan by;
August, look out yu mus';
October, all over!
It isn't exactly accurate. The hurricane season runs from June to November.
Also remember: September 1, 1939
Meanwhile, Indiana has just had the driest August in 113 years.
There he is!
Fragano @ #3: My mother taught me a version of that rhyme when I was tiny and we were living in Florida. It's almost the same:
August-in God we trust
I also remember her telling me June actually wasn't too soon, which sort of made me wonder why I was bothering to memorize the rhyme.
Kate Shaw #7:
I remember, many years ago, reading of a vagrant January hurricane.
There's been one January hurricane: Hurricane Alice in 1954-1955. We came close in 2005-2006 with Tropical Storm Zeta, but it didn't end up making hurricane status .
One should note that the hurricane forecasters are being more uncertain than usual (not that it would take much of a swerve to but Earl over land). I note especially this line from the forecast discussion concerning Tropical Depression 9: "It is worth noting that some of the global models...in particular the GFS and NOGAPS...do not even acknowledge that the cyclone exists now or in the near future."
The too soon line is probably rather like my internal calendar for snow.
October - sure, in THEORY, but it never snows in October!
November - maaaaaaaybe, but it certainly doesn't snow before my birthday!
December - yeah, it can snow then
January - coooold cooold, no no please make the cold stop
February - maybe it will be warm this year and not snow!
March - it's never supposed to snow after my sister's birthday!
April - it can't snow after my brother's birthday, I'm sure!
May - WTF? Why is it snowing? Make winter stop!
Heh - snow. Calgary has had snow every month of at least one of the years I have been here. Frost warning tonight, could be snow this weekend. That was one nice thing about being out east - you expected Halloween to be snow- and cold-free, and the tulips were coming up early April.
Here, Halloween's a 50-50 shot (whether you get to see costumes or parkas and balaclavas), and there's always at least one big snowstorm after April. In fact, this year, there was a horrible storm (which I had to drive through) last weekend in May.
But we don't get hurricanes, earthquakes, or (more than one a year) tornadoes. I can live with snow.
Please stay safe, those that do.
In spite of having spent fourteen years right in the middle of the Caribbean hurricane zone, I've been fortunate enough never to have experienced an actual hurricane. I've been sideswiped by a few, which is a experience to be missed, as is that of being under a tropical depression.* Getting up in the morning and going out onto the verandah to look down on the Pedro Plains and Broad River Valley dotted with lots of brand-new lakes is interesting; it's not so interesting if your house and land is in the middle of one of them.
* Although the practical lesson in how gullies are formed is one bit of geomorphology that's stuck with me.
@#11 : Sounds like my internal snow calendar too, except that I never trust either February or March...
All you coastal types take care!
I don't think I should comment on this particular storm without competent legal advice. heh.
Beats incompetent illegal advice ...
Similarly, I keep wondering why everyone's concerned about my older brother rampaging up and down the east coast. A tiny bit of mental whiplash at each headline.
The hurricane watch currently stops at the North Carolina/Virginia border. More news as the path becomes clearer...
David H #19:
Anybody else notice that each update, the path gets closer to land?
The last time C'town flooded was with Hurricane Floyd.
But this time we have moved here. Where we go so comes disasters. Sigh.
Heather Rose Jones (18): I had the same trouble a few years ago when my sister's namesake* made an unappreciated trip to our parents' home.
*same, slightly unusual, spelling, too
#3 & #7
The hurricane months mnemonic is reminding me of the Paul Simon (?) lyrics to April... come she will...
Waiting to see when the storm shows up and working out what I'm going to do with the caged tomato plants if we're forecast for sustained winds over 20mph in this area. I suppose they'd fit in the basement.
Correction: The "warning" drops to a "watch" north of the NC/VA border, the watch extends up to Delaware.
Names: Back in college/grad school, my sister was nicknamed "Hurricane Rachel". Ironically, a hurricane crashed her wedding....
Hurricane watch activated for Cape-Cod-and-the-islands, shelters are being setup on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The Red Cross wants to know my availability.
The inland Massachusetts expectation is for heavy rain and possible flooding.
Thena, #23: I'm glad I'm not the only one with that earworm!
Slightly cross-threading, riffing on the theme of "times change" -- who else here remembers when ALL tropical storms and hurricanes had female names? And remember the HUGE foofaraw when the Weather Service first started using male names as well? You'd have thought the world was ending. And now it's just... normal.
Torrilyn @ #11. I have friends in Colorado who live above 9,000 feet. they've seen snow every month of the year. Including July.
While we're thinking about emergency preparedness issues, I've found about a new place to hide emergency cash--a single bill can fit under the battery of your cell phone. Experimentation has shown that folding the bill in thirds along its long side, and then folding that in thirds makes for the best fit, at least for my little flip-style phone. I believe the term The Youth of Today employ is "battery bank"
OK, so the latest tracking suggests Friday night is going to be sloppy on the New England coast, with clearing toward midday Saturday. That's better news than I'd hoped for, since the Exiles are playing on the Newport waterfront this weekend. Maybe, just maybe, the bodhran will sound like a drum instead of a wet shirt.
Jim Macdonald @2:
Thank you for posting that link to the Hurricane Agnes flood. Back in 1972, at least for the Chemung River, they were calling it a 1,000 year flood. (Or, why I will *not* ever live in a flood plain. Ever. BT,DT, etc.)
David Harmon, #24, well, the watch is only DelMarVa (for others -- the peninsula on the sea side of those states) and Virginia Beach so those of us further in aren't expecting too much trouble.
Snow in July? You don't need real mountains for that. It happened in Watkins Glen NY on July 4th one year in the late 70s; I was either over in Ithaca (where it rained) or down in New Jersey that summer. And ok, it was a bit freaky, but it's upstate New York, weather happens all year.
My current Silicon Valley snow calendar expectations are "Snow lives in the mountains, and I can drive to it if I want, but it only snows down here on our low mountains every couple of years. Ski season is usually January-April." It should rain a couple of times in November and December, have serious rain in the winter, and get it over with by around April, but lately it's been weird and rained in May and even June.
Been There, Done That, Got a soggy, muddy T-Shirt?
The practice of naming storms at all came from the novel Storm by George Rippey Stewart, Random House, 1941, a Book of the Month selection.
In that book, they called the wind Maria.
See also: the Labor Day Hurricane of '35, that Ernest Hemingway wrote about: "Who Murdered the Vets?: A First-Hand Report on the Florida Hurricane."
re 30: Agnes was the 100 year flood on the Patapsco in Maryland, but not the greatest on record. Here we see the various Patapsco floods marked by date and height. That between the two diagonal braces is for Agnes; the white sign on the iron railing is for the great flood of 1868.
Glinda@30: Don't approve of flood plains myself (as a place for me to live), though with less personal experience with the downside than it sounds like you have. My previous house was less than a mile from the Mississippi, and about 75 feet above it, and not near any watercourses -- not prone to flooding (though a bit prone to water in the basement still). The current house is drier in fact, but far enough away that the explanation isn't as dramatic.
Lee@26: I remember that, and the change. Seemed a tempest in a teapot to me; I saw no signs of the female-only names doing any harm, but it was clearly wrong, and the few objections I heard were all total nonsense. They should do a year of names used for both male and female, just to be weird (not sure they couild find them for all letters, though).
Fidelio@28: If there's a name for it, it's too obvious :-).
Jim Macdonald@34: I had no idea it was that recent, or had that clear an origin. Thanks!
Those are the ones I'm coming up with off the top of my head; I'll have to see if I can find my list of gender-neutral names...
Kim (or Kimberly)
That's a good start. I'm sure we'll fill in a few more; and at that point they could do it and just skip a letter or two.
Ah; or they could not say this is what they're doing, and just slip in a sex-specific name that fits a conceivable alternation for the holes they're left with. That would be more amusing in some ways.
I'm disappointed that there's no Hurricane Serge.
Carrie S @38
A boy called Evelyn? Never encountered that before.
No, wait, I did! Just never thought about it that way before. Thanks for the (unintentional) moment of enlightenment!
That only works really well while it's a tropical storm.
38: I admit I never heard of "Gail" as a man's name. And Hurricane Gail sounds a bit tautologous...
Filling in the gaps:
Stanley is an alternative for S: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Dunham
Nothing for I, N, O, U-Z, I'm afraid.
41: there's a storm surge, what more do you want?
ajay: I was thinking of the Fountainhead character, Gail Wynand.
Haley,Hayden, or Hilary would do for H.
There are Italian men called "Nicola", and I think you can name a French boy "Nicole".
Still no joy on I, though; the best I've been able to dig up is "Ivory", and would you really name a boy Ivory?
I was thinking of Nicky for N
For I.. perhaps Izzy?
Talking about flood heights (or depths) reminded me of one of my favourite places to avoid, the Flat Bridge at Bog Walk Gorge on the Rio Cobre in St Catherine, Jamaica. It's the most direct way from Kingston to the north coast. It's also one of the true tests of nerve.
Carrie S @ 45... At least where I come from, 'Nicole' is always female, and its closest male counterpart would be 'Nicholas'.
If blizzards were named, would we have Blizzard Eddie Izzard?
What about Tornedo Rémy?
In Spanish: Isabel and Lupe could be either sex.
Serge @ 48... 'Nicolas', not 'Nicholas'
Sandy is very popular for females. According to http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/babyname.cgi , there was an interesting shift around 1984. Before that, "Sandra" was a top 100 girl's name, after that "Alexandra" was. (Sandra actually hit the top 10 for a few years, explaining why everyone I knew as a kid had an Aunt Sandy.)
"Sandy" for males, not so popular. I attempted to use this to my advantage at age 18... they caught the error before I could actually move into an all-girl's dorm.
Nonetheless, it qualifies as gender-neutral.
Bombie, 42: Evelyn Waugh.
ddb-@37 Obvious to others, or obvious enough that one would come across it in one's purse or pocket while digging for loose change two days before payday, and blow it on beer and skittles instead of keeping it for an emergency, as one was supposed to? Because when I stash money, I'm doing it so that it's not easy for me to access, and so mistake it for my normal walking-around money.
My feelings are that if it's there, a determined thief will find it, given time to look. In that sense, there are no safe hiding places, really.
fidelio@55: I'm thinking of it being stolen. Not so much out of the cell phone -- they'll just take the cell phone. My issues with spending money mostly don't occur at the low end :-) .
Willi (short for either William or Wilhelmina); ISTR that Winifred was actually historically gender-neutral, but I could be wrong.
X, the unknown, could clearly be gender-neutral all by itself.
Remember, remember the Storm of September,
The hurricane season's long shot.
I know of no reason
Why the hurricane season
Should ever be forgot.
Tex Anne 54, Bombie 42
Whose first wife was also called Evelyn.
praisegod barebones @59
According to wikipedia, their friends called them "He-Evelyn" and "She-Evelyn."
According to wikipedia, it was an unhappy marriage.
Tom Whitmore @ 57... X, the unknown, could clearly be gender-neutral all by itself
Decent movie too, if I remember correctly Dean Jagger's one time as a film's leading sort-of-Quatermass character.
Try to remember
That kind of September
When tides are high
Are winds do bellow
Duh. And winds . . .
ajay, #44: There's an alternate spelling "Gael" that I've run into as a man's name.
Vic would work, as it can be short for either Victor or Victoria.
Alex, Bailey, Casey, Drew, Emerson, Frankie, Gale, Hayden, Ives, Jordan, Kerry, Logan, Morgan, Nevin, Orly, Parker, Quinn, Reese, Sidney, Taylor, Uri, Valentine, Whitney, [X], Yardley, Zane
I couldn't find one starting with X that sounded like a plausible English-language name. There are probably some Chinese names that could work.
I have named
that were in
the weather report
you were probably
they were depressed
and so violet
Lee @ 64... Gael, as in Dorothy?
Lee @64 - I knew a Gael - he was from France. It might have had a diaresis over the e. Pronounced as Guy-ell, nothing like Gail/Gale.
The management office of my development sent a memo to all residents who have terraces to bring inside or otherwise secure things they have on their terraces. I've found bungee cords to be excellent for tying plastic chairs and the plastic milk crates to the terrace railing. Two metals chairs are heavier and I just lash them together with bungee cords. (I need to buy more bungee cords because some of them have rotted and fallen apart.)
More gender neutral names: Chris (Avram, I'm looking at you...), Dana, Elisha, Idris, Noel, Odile, Paris, Rennie, Tracy, Wallis.
Still more gender neutral names:
Clair, Corey, Dale, Jay, Kyle, Lee, Lou, Kelly, Marion, Rudy, Vivian
And a couple more: Jamie, Robin
Jackie, Kris (or Chris), Riley
Riley seems to be about evenly divided between boys and girls.
Gale Sayers was pretty famous, and a dude.
50: surely you mean Tornado Rossini.
I would have thought there would be more Gaels in Ireland...
There are a number of compilations of gender-neutral names on the net, findable by Google search or otherwise: http://www.babynames1000.com/gender-neutral/, http://www.yeahbaby.com/popular-baby-names/article.php?page=144, http://evan.nixsyspaus.org/names/, etc. Some of the suggestions I find a bit hard to believe -- Dominique as a boy's name? Not Dominic?
Joel (77): I think Dominique as a boy's name is French. In that spirit, there's also Joan.
ajay @ 75... Either way, it's one heck of a wind chime.
Hmph, Earl is dead even with central Virginia, but so far off the coast that C-ville isn't even getting a break in the heat.
Tom @ 57
See, for example, noted Indo-European linguist Winfred Lehmann (male), who I spent several years mistakenly assuming was a woman.
The problem with putting together lists of gender-neutral names these days is it has a taste of shooting fish in a barrel. (At least in US culture.) I think you have to have some sort of threshold cut-off below which items fall in the "parents do crazy things to kids" category rather than the "gender neutral" category.
When I was writing Baby Names for Dummies one of the topics I had to fight not to get distracted by was patterns in gender-neutral names: Which names cross over and when? Does cross-over use end up replacing the original use? I was playing with the data-set from the Social Security Administration website which provides endless potential for cat vacuuming.
I tend to consider the entire "last name used as first name" category to be mildly cheating.
Consider the name "Laurie" which, historically, has been male in Britain and female in the US.
Think of the people with three last names.
Or, following my @83, the name "Tracy" which is also gender-neutral. I once accidentally embarrassed someone when I corrected them regarding the sex of the political theorist Tracy Strong -- my friend and mentor -- since my interlocutor had been assuming that Tracy was female, whereas he is balding and bearded.
@84 Do you mean with or without hyphenation (or other multiple-name variations?)
Fragano, 83: Let me tell you about my confusion the first time I read Little Women.
Thena @ 86... I understand that the lack of an hyphen has often caused amusement to the Nielsen Hayden family.
TexAnne #87: Ah, yes. I'd forgotten that.
According to this Time article, certain kinds of names are forbidden for use as hurricane and storm names: state names, cities, months, types of weather, and times of day. (I'm guessing country names are out, too.) That cuts out Gale and Paris. I don't know about Scrambles the Death Dealer.
Fragno @ 83... For example, Laurie Johnson.
Here's what I've found from government databases and proprietary sources:
Okay, so Infant and Unknown are not actual names, but they were found when I compared males and females with the same given names from a proprietary database. (Baby, oddly enough, was two-thirds male.)
We can fill in the gaps with names that are not necessarily ambiguous but whose gender my co-workers and I could not determine:
We only found these on a baby names wedsite we didn't trust because it said they were of Australian origin. If I don't know what gender they are, you probably don't either unless you know someone personally who has one of these names. That's good enough for hurricane names to confuse everyone.
Since I was paid to do this research, I should probably disclaim that this post is offered as-is and does not represent the opinions of my employer.
Sorry, that should be Dominque (57% female), not Dominique. And if that spelling is too rare, try a different D name: Devyn.
A recent call-up to baseball's major league Detroit Tigers is named Casper Wells. As far as anyone can tell, he's the second guy ever to play in the major leagues with that first name (and the first since 1932).
As you might imagine, the wisecracks like "nothing ghostly about that hit" are flowing like wine from the ESPN sportscasters.
Heather Rose Jones@81: See, for example, noted Indo-European linguist Winfred Lehmann (male), who I spent several years mistakenly assuming was a woman.
You, too? At least I wasn't the grad student in my year who went through an entire oral presentation in the Anglo-Saxon seminar referring to Lehmann as "she" before being corrected by the professor after the finish.
David Harmon, #80, we'll have northerly winds tomorrow, so it will be in the high 70s both there and here.
It started raining here (central Maine) about 9 pm, big heavy drops, little to no wind.
I'm hoping for enough rain to top up the swimming pool but not enough wind to tip over the tomatoes.
I wonder how many people originally thought that Leigh Brackett was a man.
I suspect that Devon could be used for either sex.
Fragano @ 83: I knew an old lady named Laurie O'Leary. Actually, Annie Laurie O'Leary, but I only found out her full name when I read her obituary. And her full name reminds me of my late father's claim that he wanted to get a donkey and name it Maxwelton.......
Oh, and welcome back. Hope your recovery is going well.
'Sue' is usually a girl's name, but there's a song about an exception which makes it somewhat notable.
Anne Sheller #100: I've never heard a donkey with bonny brays in my life.
Thanks for the good wishes. My recovery is going reasonably well.
Another of those British male and American female names: Shirley. One of the founders of the organization I used to work for was Mrs. Shirley Fisk; aka Mary Harriman Fisk.
Re surnames used as given names: the manager of paralegals at the law firm I worked for in 1980s named her first daughter Caroline. Nice, crisp, simple name. Her second daughter ended up being Carter Prentiss Boyer. Carter and Prentiss being the surnames of the two grandmothers. Everyone joked that the poor child sounded like a law firm.
P J Evans @ 84: Or two (or three) first names - e.g. Paul Simon.
The biology department of the university where I work includes, among its more distinguished professors, a Dr Winfred Harris. He is a former provost. I wonder how many people have stumbled over his name
Allan Beatty 92:
I seem to remember that Democratic congressman Zell Miller, who endorsed Bush for President in 2004, was a man. I'm pleased to see he's been so widely forgotten.
PurpleGirl 103: Shirley for a man strikes me as at best unusual in the UK. Off the top of my head I can't think of any male Shirleys; but Shirley Williams and Shirley BasseyLinked text were both household names when I was growing up.
OK, I should really have picked that up in Preview. But at least the link goes to the right place.
OK, I should really have picked that typo up in Preview. But at least the link goes to the right place.
The biology department of my alma mater included an electron microscopist named Lew [short for "Lewis"] Ling. I recall some discussion about how many people, meeting him for the first time after having only heard his name, would be surprised that he wasn't Asian. I think that I was, but it was a long time ago and I don't remember for sure.
@107, 108: HLN, Omar Khayyam edition:
Moving Finger Writes, Moves On.
Attempts at correction meet limited success amid prayer, laughter, tears.
praisegod barebones #106: I'm pleased to see he's been so widely forgotten.
Now that's a good line. heh.
I once had a (male) boss named Jan (short for Janus). Some variety of Scandinavian-American, judging by his last name. The assistant boss was a woman named Karling. Nope, no room for confusion there.
I've read here and there of a slow drift of names from the male to the female; names that were ambiguous or masculine in previous generations becoming more and more feminine.
My grandfather's first name was Lynn. His father's name was Marion.
A more recent example is that one of my son's female nursery school classmates was named Cameron. This was in Scotland, the native home of the he-Cameron.
That would be the effect of the feminine being the 'marked' gender. Or, as we academics say, girl cooties.
AKA why girls wear trousers but boys don't wear skirts?
Carol Reed, director of the The Third Man, turns out to be a guy.
dcb at 104: I've lived my life with a last name that is also a first name. The only real negative is dealing with folks who call me by my last name under the apprehension that it is my first name. It's an easy mistake to make. Usually they only do it once or twice, but sometimes it persists for months.
Turkish names that seem to be gender-ambiguous include Deniz (meaning 'sea': 50/50 or thereabouts); Can (pr. Jan)(meaning 'soul') (mostly m, occasionally f - in case anyone's wondering there are lots of women's names in which Can is an element); Dogha (meaning 'nature' - mostly f, occasionally m); Ozgur (meaning 'freedom' - mostly m, occasionally f).
And, oddly enough, in the light of 113, Kamuran. (No idea, mostly m, occasionally f)
(For people with a passing knowledge of the Turkish language, I'm using 'gh' - as in yoghurt - to represent the soundless g; and omitting the umlauts in Ozgur; because I can't remember how to flip this keyboard form English to Turkish layout)
It's worth mentioning, though not drawing a pattern from, my former colleague here in the Netherlands. His name is Anne.
abi @ 119:
Cf Anne de Montmorency
who appears to have had a child (gender underknown to the Wikipedariat, and also to me) also called Anne.
I recall being told to call a Sergeant Major Kim Emerling. I did, she answered the phone and said, n no, she was Sergeant First Class Emerling, Cathy; and then told me Kim (her husband) wasn't home, and dealt with arranging for me to come to Mass. and teach.
She was promoted while I was there, and later made SGM, so the room for confusion was legion.
Is the Anne you mention from the Netherlands? If so, any idea what name would be on his passport? I'm wondering if it would have a Latin root (curious custom, that. Does that happen commonly outside of the Netherlands?), or just plain 'Anne'.
Obviously a Mainland Chinese name (usually rendered as Shaw or Chow in Cantonese), I've normally found that as a family name but there's Deng Xiao Ping as an example of it as a personal name.
For what it's worth, my Pinyin to English translation machine returns 50+ meanings for Xiao, ranging from "small" to "spider" to "military officer", so I don't think it's possible to give the name a gender without some kind of tonal clarification.
(For those tiny few who are unaware of Chinese naming conventions (*cough* Niven and Pournelle in The Gripping Hand *cough*), Chinese names are family name first, followed by two personal names. i.e., Deng Xiao Ping is Mr Deng, Xiao Ping if you're being formal and ah-Ping if you're family or a friend.)
 No, Mr Wong Mei Ling's daughter Joyce will not be called Joyce Mei Ling. She'll be Joyce Wong.
 Wong Mei Ling is Suzie Wong's Chinese name (From The World of Suzie Wong). Mei Ling is "pretty butterfly" according to the three native Cantonese speakers in my household.
 obSF: The original theatrical version of the book starred William Shatner, later to become famous as an SF writer of some small reknown. Also, I think he was in a TV show which a few people here might have seen...
odaiwai, 123: Could you expand on why Xiao is "obviously" Mainland Chinese?
And as long as we're here, is there an easy way for non-Chinese speakers to tell whether a name has been Westernized? For example, I've seen both "Chow Yun Fat" and "Yun Fat Chow."
I've seen his (Dutch) passport. Anne.
(Latin name-forms are something I haven't encountered much anywhere but in the Netherlands. But they are common here. Very strange finding out that Peter is really Petrus, etc.)
Small correction on the Chinese names:
While what you described is most common, both family names and personal names can consist of either 1 or 2 Chinese characters. So a Chinese name can have 2 Characters to 4 characters.
1 character for family name + 1 for personal name: Li Bai (perhaps more famous as Li Bo)
1 family + 2 personal: Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong, ..
2 family + 1 personal: Sima Qian (father of Chinese historiography)
2 family + 2 personal: Ouyang Ziyuan (the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, big proponent for both lunar and Mars exploitation programs)
'Obviously' in that it's a pretty common sound in mainland Chinese names (as opposed to, say, a Cantonese name), and it's spelled with the pinyin transcription - which is used for mandarin, and cannot be used to spell Cantonese pronunciations. So 'obvious' for people in the know, I'd say.
#125: odaiwai, 123: Could you expand on why Xiao is "obviously" Mainland Chinese?
Names specified in Pinyin are generally Mainland. Hong Kong names tend to be using the Cantonese pronouciation and to be rendered in a fashion which a colonial Brit might pronounce. Thus Shaw vs Xiao, or Chow vs Xiao.
It's mainly a matter of having a feeling for the pronounciation of a name and which dialect/language that pronouciation came from. For example, a Mr Wu is probably from a Mandarin speaking part of China, while a Mr Ng would be from Guangdong, Hong Kong or Macau (where Cantonese is spoken). Their name would be written with the same character, but the pronouciation would be different because of the langauge.
As for how to tell if a name is in the right order: it's kind of obvious if you know the kind of family names that people are likely to have depending on where you are, but I don't think I could codify a ruleset for it.
Incidentally, Mr Chow Yun Fat (family name Chow) is well known here in Hong Kong as not only a fine actor but also as an accomplished photographer and a very nice guy in general. He is almost the quintessential Local Boy Done Good.
odaiwai, 128: Thank you, and gaaah, your effort didn't help. How can someone with no Chinese tell that something is Pinyin? Of course the answer is "learn Chinese," but that's not possible right now.
Bombie, 127: Thanks. I'm still confused, but at least I know the shape of my ignorance a little better.
Bombie @127: I think those multi-character family names are quite rare and definitely not Southern Chinese. I know an expat who insisted on a four character Chinese translation of his name which got a very negative reaction from most of his (and my) local colleagues.
Texanne @129: well, the short answer is that there's a certain sound to Mandarin, which is different to the normal sound of Cantonese.
It's like the difference between Italian and Spanish: they may sound alike if you don't speak either, but spending some time in a place where one of the languages is spoken will allow you to differentiate between them, even if you don't speak either.
odaiwai, 130: Yep. I definitely need to learn Chinese. I gather that the language usually taught in the US is Mandarin--does having Mandarin make learning Cantonese easier, the way knowing French makes Spanish easier?
My parents were Clare and Marion. Dad's name got misidentified more frequently than Mom's, since Marion's fairly rare as a man's name, with the exception of a well-known mayor, and both of them got their names misspelled a lot, because of the availability of alternate spellings. Mail to "Mrs. Clare Stewart" was ambiguous, but was more commonly intended for him. And of course Stewart often gets misspelled.
But Dad went through life with problems about what name to be called. His father was also Clare, so he didn't get called that at home, and he spent a lot of years being called "C.A." (is calling people in the US by initials mainly Southern, unless they're Chinese?) though later in life was mostly called Clare, which is what my mom called him. Using the middle name was Right Out - he absolutely hated being called Gus, and ditched it as soon as he could, though some of the cousins still refer to him as Uncle Gus.
I can think of one trick for the layman to differentiate between a mainland Chinese name and a Cantonese name. A big, visible difference between pinyin* and Cantonese is that mainland Chinese has no sounds that and with a -p, -t, or -k. Cantonese does. So if you think a name is Chinese, that's a trick to take a more educated guess as to its origin.
Don't know if this helps. :)
* You can always 'cheat', and see if you find the sound in this table.
Bombie, 133: That table is *so* *cool.* Now if only there were a way to compare two or more side by side.
X and Q in transliterations of Chinese words are a pretty good sign that it's being done in pinyin and thus mainland.
(I've seen the sound that pinyin uses 'x' for transliterated also as 'hs', which is closer to what it sounds like.)
Bombie 122: What exactly is the 'curious custom' you're referring to here?
As mentioned elsewhere (this thread? another thread?), the pinyin transliteration can only represent sounds from the official Chinese dialect (which for many Chinese is a widely-shared second language, as their own dialect is so vastly different as to be a language in its own right - bleeding over to another thread again).
The actual sounds in the official dialect is those in the table times four - Chinese is a tonal language, and the official dialect has 4 tones (Cantonese has more). For an idea of what it sounds like, here's the 'xiao' from Deng Xiaoping (click 'listen'). If you want to listen to any of the sounds in the table, just write it in the search box, pick any character from the results list (lots of homonyms, especially when you don't take tone into consideration), and click listen again.
Also, P J Evans' X and Q tip is a good visual trick as well.
odaiwai, Bombie, thanks for the Chinese name discussion. I had to deal with another Chinese naming convention issue yesterday - my Taiwanese coworker wasn't at the office yesterday, and it turned out his wife had fallen and broken a hip and was in the hospital. We went to visit, and they had no record of her, and I realized we had no clue what her last name was, because it would be her family name, not his, and most of us had only met her once or twice so nobody remembered her first name. (Problem got resolved by calling his cellphone.) (It's not like Americans don't have this as a routine issue the last couple of decades either, but with Chinese it's almost universal, especially since you don't marry somebody with the same last name.)
Other friends who were Hakka from Vietnam had multiple sets of names. His name was Le, and his wife always got annoyed when bureaucrats wrote her name as Le, because her family name was Ly, and just because if sounded the same to gringos didn't mean she was using her husband's name. In addition to Chinese personal-names, they also had Vietnamese ones, and the kids adopted English ones when they moved here, and there were also family-position names (I think they were Hakka, but might have been Vietnamese, but Joe's name translated to "Number One Son", etc.)
praisegod bb @136
Dutch Catholics often get a Christian name (with which they are baptised, I think) on their passport, which is the original Latin root from which the name they end op using is derived.
So Dutch Catholics who are called 'Jan', 'Han', 'Johan', .. will all share the same 'Johannes' on their official documents; 'Piet' and 'Peter' will share 'Petrus'; 'Wim' and 'Willem' will share 'Wilhelminus'; Katie, Trien, Katrien, .. will share Catarina, &c.
I'm don't actually know what comes first: do they pick a root first, and then see which derivative they like best, or pick a common name first, and then go for the root. I wonder if a people change derivative during their lifetime, say a Peter becoming a Piet (as it's not official).
Come to think of it, perhaps the Russian's have a similar custom, i.e. naming children after popular saints and in practice using derivatives and diminutives..? But I'm not too familiar with this practice, so I can't say for certain.
The Chinese naming discussion had me checking to see whether I was on Language Log :-)
Also, the pinyin table is very interesting and even playing the sounds over and over again I still can't quite hear what distinguishes the tone indicated by the inverted-caret (tone 3). (To my north-American-English ear, tone 1 is "high", tone 2 is "question" and tone 4 is "normal but kind of short," which I'm imagining from the diacritical is a falling tone.)
My parents knew a couple named Steve and Sal: Stephanie and Salvador. (Funny how Sal sounds like a male name to me these days, but when I was a kid in Michigan it sure sounded female.)
I used to know a Brazilian guy named Fabio Roberto Gardenal da Silva. He was registered for school as Roberto da Silva, but performed (he was a pianist) as Fabio Gardenal.
Your north-American-English ear is a damned good ear. The third tone starts pretty low, drops a bit further, and then rises (but not as high as the questioning second tone).
Here a diagram which I hope might clarify the shape of the tones a bit.
Sandy B #53 - in Scotland Sandy is used as a diminutive for Alexander, so is definitely not gender neutral. You're all coming up with far more gender neutral names than I would have guessed, I get the impression there has been a massive growth in them in the USA, whereas my more conservative upbringing in Scotland never had them. Names like Vivian and Hilary were around but hardly used. So is this much of a change of the last 20 years, or does it go back much longer, beyond even the boy named sue?
Bill Stewart, #132, my grandfather's name was Clair William Layman. He went by Bill for a long time, but eventually back to Clair. His wife, my grandmother, had an unusual name but used it: Eslie.
guthrie @ 143 -- IME, Sandy (at least in the upper midwest) is gender neutral. I've known Sandys of both sexes, and most of them are at least my age (girls it's diminutive of Sandra, boys for Alexander).
I think that there has been a growth in the number of names that can now be considered gender neutral, but I've noticed that it's mostly traditionally male names being used for females. (A co-worker of my husband's had a daughter they named Taylor Jordan. And then were surprised when office mates had to ask 'girl or boy?')
About Claire Lee Chennault...
He led the Flying Tigers (an all-volunteer service) in China before the United States entered World War II. When America entered the war, he took command of all Allied Air Forces in the Far East.
re Russian diminutives: Russian name usage is much more formal than people who don't speak russian think. Because of this the opening chapters of War and Peace seem tedious, and the later ones impenetrable.
Everyone has three names, personal, patronymic, and family (Michael Sergeyivich Gorbachyov, Piotr Illych Tchaikofsky, etc.).
If one doesn't know the person then an honorific (mister/comrade) + family name is the form of address (e.g. Gospodin Pushkin Tovarisch Brezhnyev).
If one is on speaking terms with someone, then the personal + patronymic are used (e.g. Anna Pavlova, Mikhael Sergeyivich), without honorific.
If one is friendly, then just the given name.
If one is an intimate, then a diminutive (which are set... Mikhael = Misha, Vladimir = Volodya, etc.). For those with whom one is truly close, hyper diminutives may be used. Misha become Mishka, Sasha becomes Sashulka, and so forth (again this are set forms).
None of this, of course, precludes the use of pet-names and other sorts of nicknames, but there isn't any free-form way to change the ways in which names derive.
Which brings us back to War and Peace, Tolstoy gives all the names when someone is introduced, so that he can, with a quick stroke of the pen, show how the relationships between people work, and change, as the story moves alone.
Shirley Povich was a long-time sports columnist and sports editor (41 years!) at the Washington Post. I remember reading his columns (with photo; clearly male) when we lived outside DC in the 1960s.
Maury is his son.
Terry Karney 147
The little knowledge I have of the naming tradition, I got from War and Peace. But that's Russian high society, 200 years ago. I'm wondering how widespread this practice is today (especially the use of patronymic names). Most of the Russians I encountered and interacted with* introduced themselves with their diminutive name, only sometimes mentioning the full name its derived from. Now I'm wondering if they were being really kind to me, and I was too uncultured to notice, or if their customs became less strict.
* All of them of the same generation - just come of age/early twenties, most of them from somewhere in Siberia, so hardly a representative sample. Neither is Tolstoy's.
JennR #145 - it always strikes me as odd when the diminutive is as long and complex as the original name. Interesting to see how different cultures change things to suit themselves over time.
About 'male' names moving to women, I'm using my copy of Agricola's "DE Re metallica" just now, and it was translated by HErbert Clark Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover, who was his wife, and I recall photographs of people like Mrs George Smith. It seems to me that it has always been more common for mens names to go to being womans in some way, eg alexander to alexandra. I've always put that down to the general patriarchal influence frowning upon transfer the other way and the male being exalted so that calling your women by more masculine names seems appropriate.
guthrie #151: it always strikes me as odd when the diminutive is as long and complex as the original name.
Hmm... Dolores -> Lolita comes to mind offhand. I'm sure there are others, but I'm not caffeinated yet.
guthrie (151): Are you sure that Mrs. George Smith wasn't married to George Smith (with her own first name being something like Mary)? Also the 'Henry' in Lou Henry Hoover was probably her maiden name.
Bombie: Present day Russians/Ukrainians (the only groups of which I have any real, personal, experience) all have a patronymic. They don't use it, much; outside of work/professional environments.
They use their given name/diminutive in much the same way the given/patronymic pair used to be used. That said the use of the older pattern isn't completely dead.
When dealing with westerners, they tend to jump straight to the diminutive (which is more to the order, these days of an english speaker saying, "Call me James" when introduced as "X" Last Name".
No, this isn't true: it depends on the name/diminutive/person. I've had both Aleksandrs, and Sashas, Dimitri and Dimas, etc.
I've also had a few use the double-barreled form. Perhaps, on the day that the verb, "tikovat" become obsolete (i.e. to speak in the informal conjugation, that is, You may use "thee" with me), then too with the use of names to express intimacy go away.
I say that because it occurs to me that all of the relationships I've had with Russians/Ukrainians have been as either working equals, or situations in which I was the "senior" person. In the casual introductions, I got the, "Marina Stefanova" formulation.
I'd also point out Tolstoy wasn't actually recalling the ways of use in 1812, but rather of 20-50 years later, since he was born in 1828, and wrote the book in the 1860s.
It was just pointed out elsewhere that Julian May is female, so there's another 'J'. Plus diminutives such as 'Julie', though I suppose it's rare for males to be addressed thus.
Marilee@144, one of my family's standard threats was "We could have named you Leeper Augustus".
Yesterday's NYT contained a correction to an obituary, making it quite clear that two of the deceased's children, Loren and Wade, were daughters.
Or a couple - Willie and Goldie - in Omaha whose mail came while I was pet-sitting at my sister's new house.
Golden emailed about coming by to pick the current accumulation up while briefly in town to deal with the care facility. Golden was named for his dad, and Willie is the mother.
My dad used to share space in the garden with a couple called Lyn and Dean.
Lyn was named after his father Lyndon, and Dean was her middle name (she was named after her mother, and there were three of them in her family....I don't remember what her first name was officially).
Joel Polowin #155: My stepfather Julius goes by Julie.
David Harmon @ 160 -- I was trying to bring to mind why the name seemed to be associated with a man, for me, and finally retrieved it: Julius Schwartz, AKA Julie.
ajay @ 44:
A guy named Gail: Gail Borden.
Another boy/girl name: Laverne.
These days, Laverne could be considered a girl's name; e.g., "and Shirley."
But it used to be a boy's name; e.g., my great-grandfather, Milton Laverne [lastname]. Also, Harlan Ellison's father, Louis Laverne Ellison.
Marion Robert Morrison, aka John Wayne...
obscure apparently-nongendered name: Elnathan
(I've seen it on both men and women, although looking at it, I'd expect that its original use was as a man's name)
Bill Stewart, #156, LOL I have a problem with my first name because most people don't know it. I say "Marilee" and they hear, most commonly, "Marilyn." Then there's "Mary Lee," "Nadine," "Irene," and "Natalie." I think that's because of the vowels. And people almost always go with "Lehman" instead of "Layman."
Doris Miller, a hero of Pearl Harbor, nicknamed "Dorie".
On gender-neutral names: La femme Nikita Khrushchev, anyone?
An obscure example is Kari - a girl's name everywhere in Scandinavia; except in Finland, where it's a boy's name.
I've met a guy with the middle name Beryl. My mother had two students named Hope the same year, one male and one female. One went by Hopie, but I'm not sure which.
It does seem to me that in American usage middle names are much less strongly gendered than first names.
Mary Aileen: I've known a guy with the first name of Beryl.
ddb: I think the middle name flexibility stems from it being oft the case names of forbears are used. Since, as we've seen some names (Joyce, Marion) have changed primary gender, it's easier to get such a name.