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Francois, meet Francoise
September 28, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

What are all of the male/female homophone name pairs? I am looking for examples of names that sound alike but are spelled differently depending on whether the individual is male or female. Examples: Don/Dawn, Erin/Aaron, Francis/Frances, Yves/Eve.
posted by bq to Writing & Language (76 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dana/ Danna
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:12 PM on September 28, 2012


Eryn, Erin / Aron, Aaron
Shawn / Sean
Charley / Charlie
Lee / Leigh / Leah
posted by tilde at 2:12 PM on September 28, 2012


Ray and Rae
posted by jquinby at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2012


Tony/Toni, Jerry/Jeri, Terry/Terri, Francis/Frances
posted by timpanogos at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2012


Regionally, many of those are not considered homophones; you're going to get lots of different answers to this question depending on the commenter's location and accent.

For example, only one of those combinations (Yves/Eve) sounds the same to me (native New Englander). All the others are pronounced differently and I hear them differently in my head when I read them.
posted by jesourie at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2012 [20 favorites]


Michel/Michelle.
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:14 PM on September 28, 2012


Maybe pushing is a little but: Matty and Maddy
posted by jquinby at 2:14 PM on September 28, 2012


Gene/Jean
posted by griphus at 2:15 PM on September 28, 2012


Rene/Renee
posted by smirkette at 2:16 PM on September 28, 2012


Oh, and, yeah, this is going to be region-dependent. I pronounce "Aaron" and "Erin" differently, but none of the others you mentioned.
posted by griphus at 2:16 PM on September 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Robin/Robyn
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:17 PM on September 28, 2012


Carol/Carroll
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:18 PM on September 28, 2012


Jo/Joe
posted by humph at 2:18 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Adrian/Adrienne
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:18 PM on September 28, 2012


Marion/Marian
posted by trip and a half at 2:19 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Michelle, Michele, Michel
posted by tilde at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2012


Lauren/Loren
posted by MoonOrb at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of these are a little foggy; I've seen Sean as both a male and a female name. Same with Robin (male/female) and Robyn (male/female). Maybe I just have weird friends.

What about names that are pronounced and spelled the same for male and female names, like Sam or Angel?
posted by xedrik at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hoe do people pronounce Aaron differently than Erin? I'm super curious.

I'd also point out that not all of those are easily identified as male/female. Only in some parts of the US are women named Shawn, for example. Elsewhere both spelling are make.
posted by fshgrl at 2:21 PM on September 28, 2012


"Aaron" with the first syllable like "Apple." "Erin" with the first syllable like "Eclipse."
posted by griphus at 2:22 PM on September 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jaye/Jay
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:24 PM on September 28, 2012


fshgrl, I pronounce Aaron with the sound you would use with arid. Erin is like enemy. (I pronounce eclipse with a hard e. ee-clipse)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:25 PM on September 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


Joe / Jo
posted by mochapickle at 2:25 PM on September 28, 2012


Hoe do people pronounce Aaron differently than Erin? I'm super curious.

Also 'ron' in Aaron sounds like 'done' to me, where 'rin' in Erin sounds like 'rinse'.
posted by lholladay at 2:27 PM on September 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


Paddy/Patti(e)
posted by bilabial at 2:27 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm also from New England and to me Aaron/Erin are very distinct, but I get enough shit for it that I assume I'm in the minority.
posted by threeants at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2012


Lyn/Lynn
Sammie/Sammi
Terry/Terri
Casey/Kasey
Many names that end in y or i
posted by tamitang at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2012


Depending on what part of the country you're in, Allan / Ellen.
posted by mochapickle at 2:28 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my parents' generation there was Lesley/Leslie but now it seems that all are female.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2012


For me, Aaron is with æ (as in cat), and Erin is with ɛ (as in bet).
posted by threeants at 2:29 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gene / Jean
Ellis / Alice
Andy / Andi or Andie
posted by mochapickle at 2:33 PM on September 28, 2012


Daniel/Danielle

Maybe not so much as the others, but I live in a French area and this makes sense to me.

There are a ton of names in French that are pronounced the same way but have different masculine/feminine spellings.
posted by ohmy at 2:34 PM on September 28, 2012


Jesse/Jessie (or Jessy)
posted by zombieflanders at 2:34 PM on September 28, 2012


A lot of what seems to be going on is that shift in US naming culture that brought many male names over into female territory: Lesley, Lee, Ashley, Sean, Aaron, Marion, Meredith, and many others, used to be exclusively male names. As they started becoming more frequent female names, people came up with alternate spellings to try to distinguish gender - but then since the male/female name boundary was weak, those variations bled back over into the male names.
For example, if you're Irish or Irish decent, Sean is a very Irish name and for boys only; once people get creative enough (and non-Irish enough) to see it as Shawn, people are just as likely to see it as a girl's name. So I'd say Shawn is a 50/50 gender split, but Sean is >95% male.
And I wouldn't know if Ashley was more or less likely to be male than Ashleigh... I'm thinking Ashleigh is more female, but I'm not really certain.
A complicated question!
posted by aimedwander at 2:37 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Billie/Billy
posted by Lucinda at 2:38 PM on September 28, 2012


I'm glad someone is finally coming out about the Alan/Ellen convergence. I have a friend named Ellen and her accent causes her to say it in a way that sounds like "Alan" to a lot of folks. They are then confused about the idea of a woman named Alan.

I'm unsure of whether you're asking for names that are used by both genders (e.g. Charlie, Sammy, Bobbie, Toni, Shaun), or distinct names that are homophones across genders, like Aaron/Erin.

If the former, Jordan/Jordann.

If the latter, Lois/Louis. They don't sound identical, but definitely as close as Ellis and Alice.
posted by Sara C. at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2012


Along the lines of aimedwander's answer, I would also like to report that Oscar Wilde had a son named Vyvyan.

(Vivian, too, used to be a Leslie/Meredith/Marion kind of name, though I'd be surprised to meet a male Vivian today.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:44 PM on September 28, 2012


Lindsey/Lindsay
Bobbi/Bobby
Kris/Chris
Kelli/Kelly
posted by Ms. Toad at 2:57 PM on September 28, 2012


My mom, who grew up on the East Coast, pronounces Laura and Lara almost identically, with an "ah" sound. I (mostly raised in the Midwest) don't. We both say Aaron and Erin differently, though.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:58 PM on September 28, 2012


How about:

Toni/Tony
Terri/Terry
Kim/Kym
Jacq/Jack
Peta/Peter

For both genders
Al or Ali or Alex
George (from Georgina/Georgia for a girl)
Pat
Chris
Max (from Maxine for a girl)
posted by EatMyHat at 3:04 PM on September 28, 2012


Andrew/Andrea
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:08 PM on September 28, 2012


Sasha (F, US)/Sacha, Saša or Sascha (M, EUR)
posted by likeso at 3:12 PM on September 28, 2012


Gale and Gail (or Gayle)
posted by daisystomper at 3:23 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lane/Laine
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:24 PM on September 28, 2012


Linda/Lyndal
Julia/Julian
Brenda/Brendan
Keira/Keiran
Alberta/Alberto
posted by EatMyHat at 3:25 PM on September 28, 2012


But none of those are homophones, EatMyHat.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:27 PM on September 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


@ocherdraco: Neither is Francois and Francoise, nor Don and Dawn, where I come from anyway. Depends what accent you have I guess....
posted by EatMyHat at 3:30 PM on September 28, 2012


Hollis and Hollace
posted by txmon at 3:33 PM on September 28, 2012


Leslie and Lesley
posted by Joh at 3:43 PM on September 28, 2012


How do people pronounce Aaron differently than Erin? I'm super curious.

In my Grade 8 class there was an Aaron and an Erin... with the same last name. My teacher would actually get really mad when they couldn't tell who he was speaking to. I can still remember the exasperated look on his face and his intonation of "There's Aaron, and then there's Erin." I can hear the difference when I remember his voice, but damned if I can explain it.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:45 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Michael/Michal
Jaime/Jaimee/Jamey
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2012


Marion / Marian
Joe / Jo
Ariel / Ariel
Cameron / Cameron
Robin / Robyn
Cary / Carrie
Sidney / Sydney
posted by kyrademon at 3:54 PM on September 28, 2012


> "How do people pronounce Aaron differently than Erin? I'm super curious."

Air On vs. Air In.
posted by kyrademon at 3:55 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


For some speakers, Mary, marry and merry have different vowel sounds, as this video attempts to demonstrate. For those speakers, "Aaron" has the "marry" vowel in the first syllable, and "Erin" has the "merry" vowel.

For other speakers, Mary, marry and merry all have the same vowel.

The trouble is, if you don't pronounce "Mary," "marry" and "merry" differently, you will also have a very hard time hearing the distinction in the speech of people who do make it. This sounds bizarre and counterintuitive, but it's a very well established principle in linguistics. People can hear the phonemic distinctions of their own language or dialect, but often can't hear distinctions that their own language or dialect doesn't make. It's why English-speakers have trouble hearing the difference between certain words in Mandarin, and why Mandarin-speakers have trouble hearing the difference between certain words in English, and so on.

So if you have an accent where "Mary," "marry" and "merry" are pronounced the same, you probably watched that video and said YOU LIAR! I DIDN'T HEAR THREE DIFFERENT PRONUNCIATIONS! I HEARD THE EXACT SAME PRONUNCIATION THREE TIMES! And, yeah, that probably is what you heard — there really is a difference there, but speaking the variety of English that you speak hasn't trained you to hear it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:26 PM on September 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I am an Erin, and I don't hear any difference between Aaron and Erin (I know some of each). I've only ever pronounced it air-in, and I don't think anyone has ever addressed me as ee-rin.
posted by ella wren at 4:30 PM on September 28, 2012


(No, nobody says "ee-rin," with the FLEECE vowel in the first syllable.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:34 PM on September 28, 2012


So if you have an accent where "Mary," "marry" and "merry" are pronounced the same, you probably watched that video and said YOU LIAR! I DIDN'T HEAR THREE DIFFERENT PRONUNCIATIONS! I HEARD THE EXACT SAME PRONUNCIATION THREE TIMES!

I've known some people from the northeast US who clearly pronounce all three distinctly. But in that video Mary and merry were very similar — I've heard merry with a first syllable more like "meh" in the past. Anyway, I would say the difference between Aaron and Erin is in the second vowel: air-un (with a schwa) and air-in.
posted by stopgap at 4:52 PM on September 28, 2012


Interesting. Not in my dialect, but I believe you about yours.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:54 PM on September 28, 2012


As a transplant from a region where they are pronounced identically (also a Mary/merry identical region) to a place where they are pronounced differently, I can sort of hear it now.

People pronounce Aaron with a hard, short A sound. Someone upthread described it as the A in Apple, which sounds pretty accurate to me. I can replicate this sound if I try, but it sounds unnatural to me.

People pronounce Erin with a sound that is either close to "air" or "eh". Again, I can make the differentiation if I try, but it sounds weird.

The worst part is that my own name falls into the same vowel trap, and I've become awkward about pronouncing it. I'm also fairly sure I'm using the wrong one at least some of the time, because sometimes when I introduce myself people look at me funny. You yankees and your need to differentiate between different vowels. Gah.
posted by Sara C. at 5:10 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's absolutely eh-rin for Erin (as in "bet fin") and ae-ron for Aaron (as in "cat gone") for me.

For a lot of people, "Barry" and "Berry" are homophones, though not for me. Folks with that Midwest US vowel repertoire are going to have more of these than us New Englanders (Cary and Carrie aren't homophones for us, either).

Gene and Jean(ne) and Francis and Frances are really the canonical US English examples. A lot of the other distinctions people are making here don't map to my experience: I know women named Chris and men named Kris, for instance.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:11 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Vivian, too, used to be a Leslie/Meredith/Marion kind of name, though I'd be surprised to meet a male Vivian today.)

There are definitely francophone male Vivians, for what it's worth.

It's worth noting that a lot of the formerly male names mentioned above remain male or at least neutral in Britain. I assume British Ashleys are male and American ones female. Also Hilarys. I assume all Lees are male until informed otherwise, though, regardless of nationality. I would assume someone called Robin was a guy, but not as strongly as I would a Lee.

Along the lines of the Sasha example above (though I think Sasha works as a diminutive for women as well, but I'm not sure), see also Micha/Mischa. (The only female Mischa Wiki came up with is the Mischa Barton. Micha is apparently the Dutch form of Micah and used for both men and women, though with a pronunciation difference.) I'm sure there are a whole slew of diminuitives ending in -a that have been used for female names in the US.
posted by hoyland at 5:13 PM on September 28, 2012


Oh! There's Gaël to go with Gale/Gail/Gayle, too.

(Er... small disclaimer, it may not be a homophone with its proper pronunciation. Then again, I don't think François and Françoise are homophones by that standard either.)
posted by hoyland at 5:19 PM on September 28, 2012


And François/Françoise is a terrible example, btw. "Fran-swah" and "Fran-swahzzzzzz" are very different! Ladies named Françoise tend to hit that final consonant with a resounding buzz, too, just to avoid any possible confusion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:25 PM on September 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


> Vivian, too, used to be a Leslie/Meredith/Marion kind of name

Evelyn as well.
posted by kyrademon at 5:49 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in a francophone area so there are lots. Daniel/Danielle, Axel/Axelle, Pascal/Pascale, Adrien/Adrienne, Andre/Andree come to mind. I also know a Terran (m) and a Terryn (f).
posted by Cuke at 6:37 PM on September 28, 2012


Danny/Dannie
posted by en forme de poire at 7:35 PM on September 28, 2012


Yvonne / Ivan (when Ivan is pronounced the proper Russian way, not the Anglicized way)
posted by clair-de-lune at 7:42 PM on September 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Yvonne" and "Ivan" don't sound much alike to me--the "o" in "Yvonne" is much more closed in French than the stressed "a" is in Russian.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:27 PM on September 28, 2012


Riley and Rileigh
Chris and Kris
Ryan and Ryann
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:08 PM on September 28, 2012


Lawrence/Laurence

Was really confused when I met a French woman called Laurence!
posted by jujulalia at 1:19 AM on September 29, 2012


And Pascal/Pascale

(For me there absolutely is a difference between Mary, marry and merry, and Aaron and Erin.)
posted by jujulalia at 1:31 AM on September 29, 2012


Most people I meet mispronounce my name as a homophone. I gave up on attempting to correct them when I was still a young child.
posted by thatdawnperson at 6:06 AM on September 29, 2012


I just want to point out that my daughter Helen got in big trouble when her teacher with a VERY heavy Texas accent was calling out ALLEN and she didn't respond - that's not her name, but that's how he pronounced it. Ruined that class for the whole school year.
posted by CathyG at 5:03 PM on September 30, 2012


My Flemish brother-in-law is Ivan, but it's pronounced Yvonne, from my Midwestern America point of view. Bugged me at first, then I got used to it.
posted by Goofyy at 6:56 AM on October 1, 2012


Alison/Allison -- the distinction is being lost, but not to long ago, one L meant male and two Ls meant female. My mom was named Alison, and it required frequent explaining when she was younger that she was named after her dad.
posted by QuakerMel at 8:23 PM on October 1, 2012


Thanks everyone! I was interested in homophones, and I never dreamt that there were so many that are dependent on regional accents.
posted by bq at 5:33 PM on October 22, 2012


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