Apparently quite a lot.

So what are the ingredients of a sexy name? For boys, a good name will contain vowel sounds made at the front of the mouth, such as 'e' or 'i' sounds; names with fuller, rounder vowel sounds such as 'u' tend to score lower. So pat yourself on the back if you're called Ben... but if your name is Paul you might have to work harder to snare a date.

The opposite is true for girls, Perfors found. Women with round-sounding names such as Laura tended to score higher than those with smaller vowel sounds. "Unfortunately for me, Amy is one of the bad names," Perfors laments. ...

Predictably, guys with the names deemed most masculine tended to score highest. Names were generally judged masculine because they contained strong consonants such as 'b' and 'k'. But girls scored higher when they had either a very feminine or a strongly masculine name; names judged to be somewhere in the middle scored worst.

The finding seems say that guys need a rugged name to impress the ladies, whereas being a tomboy is cool for girls. "So much of our culture says that tomboy stuff is ok, but wimpy guys are not," Perfors says.

Perfors argues that the discovery that vowel sounds can influence a person's perceived attractiveness is the more interesting finding, because it seems to be a subconscious effect. Experts, including the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, have previously argued that vowel sounds are arbitrary building blocks with no intrinsic meaning.

Fortunately, "Michael" has both "i" and "k" sounds, which probably also explains why it has been one of the most popular boys names for decades. Naturally, there are other factors as well (the Catholic Church led to many millions of "Mary"s, for example), but it seems most implausible to me that anyone could believe that something as fundamental to humanity as name sounds could be entirely arbitrary and devoid of low-level meaning.

(HT: GeekPress.)



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