On The Letter Y

M&S have recently brought out an ad to the delightful tune of A Girl Like You, and it got me thinking. Not about music, but names of course.

You see, the man behind the song is a Scot by the name of Edwyn Collins.

It rather goes against this whole idea that substituting a y into a name makes it feminine, a la Emersyn et al. Of course this is a rather controversial practice, with some steadfastly against it whilst others embrace it.

But it exists, and that’s all I really care about so far as this post is concerned.

Of course, in Wales the letter y almost exclusively denotes a male name: Carwyn, Bryn and Emlyn, for example.

The biggest name to note here is that of Gwyn and Gwen: the former being the masculine form of the name, and thus the latter is the feminine form. They’re noteworthy because gwyn also happens to a common element for Welsh names, such as Dilwyn and the above Carwyn. For female names, the ending changes to give us the likes of Bronwen and Carwen.

It makes sense when you consider that here in the English-speaking world, plenty of names have different masculine and feminine forms, e.g. Henry/Henriette; Julian/Juliette; Paul/Paulette; Nicolas/Nicolette; and Bernard/Bernadette.

And that’s just only a small sample of names.

At the end of the day, this post could be summarised into one sentence:

Does the letter y distinguish a name’s gender?

I guess it depends where you live in the world.

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Categories: Musings, Name Ponderings, Name Spellings | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “On The Letter Y

  1. I find this quite interesting. You often see people substituting an i for a y in girls names to “pretty them up” these days, so I think a lot of people find y to be more feminine. Then again I also often see fantasy writers inserting y in names to make them seem more “fantasy like”. So I think there are a lot of mixed messages when you see a y in a name these days.

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