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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Eszter Harigatti’s post at Crooked Timber on gender and academic honorifics (which I will come back to in a different post) led to a post by Kevin Drum wherein he observes that tennis commentators seem to call males by last names and women by first names (something I have no basis to comment upon, having last watched competive tennis when Bjorn Borg played).

This led to comments about the usages of “Hillary” and “Condi” in referring to two of our most prominent female politicos. (I suppose “Hillary” can, at least in part, be attributed to the need to differentiate between the two Clintons. However, there is something to the “Condi” thing and gender. We didn’t go around calling Secretary Powell “Colin” all the time, let alone by a nickname, now did we?)

However, it does seem that being known by one’s first name is as much an issue of fame/notoriety as anything else. In the realm of pop culture we have Madonna and Cher (both female).

In politics, however, we also have: Arnold, Rudy and Jeb. “Arnold”, of course, has the pop-culture element and “Jeb” is as much a function of the fact that there are multiple prominent Bushes.

So, can anyone think of other prominent examples to provide some data in terms of gender-comparisons?

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3 Responses to “What We Call People”

  1. N. Mallory Says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why anyone in the White House was called “Scooter”. Sounds like something from “The Dukes of Hazard”.

    Then I guess there’s Sting for your male pop icons. Gov. Kathleen Blanco is called Blanco and you hardly ever hear Sen. Olympia Snowe refered to as just Olympia.

    It’s an interesting question though.

    Mostly, I rever to “Condi” as Condi Rice though I do refer to Hillary as “Hillary” but I don’t like either of them so it could just be a lack of respect. Hmmmmm….

  2. Gdshf Says:

    “However, there is something to the “Condi” thing and gender.”

    The reason we call her Condi is so as not to confuse her with Jerry.

    One prominent first name, male example is the vice president: Dick. When one speaks of a Dick, Cheney immediately comes to mind.

  3. Outside The Beltway | OTB Says:

    Titles and Academe

    Eszter Hargittai reports that, despite it being clear from the context of her professional website that she’s a university professor with a PhD, she is often addressed by emailers as “Mrs.” and that this has also happened to her at p…


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