Several sources have recently noticed a trend in North American English boys’ names. According to this trend, a disproportionate number of boys’ names contain a final syllabic nasal. This paper presents two studies that investigate this observation systematically. A corpus study of the most popular names in Ontario and the USA found that around 40% of English boys’ names fit this pattern, which has been called “the Age of Aidans”. The second study was a lexical decision task. It was modeled after previous research on sound symbolism (phonosemantics). This experiment found that speakers preferred pseudo-names for boys that fit the “Age of Aidans” pattern. Taken together, the two studies suggest that final syllabic nasals can be compared to phonesthemes. Current North American speakers of English perceive disyllabic names ending in syllabic nasals as “good” boys’ names.

corpus study, English boys’ names, lexical decision task, sound symbolism
School of Linguistics and Language Studies

MacAulay, L. (Lauren), Siddiqi, D, & Toivonen, I. (2018). The Age of Aidans: Cognitive Underpinnings of a New Trend in English Boys’ Names. Names. doi:10.1080/00277738.2018.1490523