Gender association of names and nouns in English

Back when I was starting to study linguistics (in the 1980s), the syntax professors (Ivan Sag and Tom Wasow) made a point of using gender neutral names in their examples, names that can be used for both males and females, like Chris (Chris Evert and Chris Columbus), rather than John and Mary, which had typically been used in examples. The other day I was curious to see if we can get an idea of to what extent a name or a noun is used for females and males using Google Ngrams. We can, and here’s what I did.

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Lady photographers and woman balloonists


To start off this new blog, I thought I’d bring together a few of my interests, including language, data visualization, and the social history of photography.

As part of our Early Women Artisan Photographers (EWAP) project (the podcast is Photographs, Pistols & Parasols), I periodically browse through eBay looking for photographs taken by women who ran their own photography businesses between 1840 (pretty much the beginning of commercial photography) to 1930 (the first big peak of women as photographers in the U.S.). The other day I came across a cabinet card (out of our price range, unfortunately) by a studio run by two women in Spokane, Washington. The card was unusual (for that studio) in that it was an advertising card for a balloonist who was going to be performing locally.

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