What’s in a name?

In the first phase of the U.S. election campaign, John McCain was “McCain”, Barack Obama was “Obama”, and Hillary Clinton was “Hillary”. It wasn’t clear that this meant anything, since “Clinton” was ambiguous (Bill or Hillary) and it was tedious to have to say “Hillary Clinton” or “Senator Clinton”.

However, now John McCain is still “McCain”, Barack Obama is still “Obama”, but Sarah Palin is “Sarah” in the media.

I’m not trying to make any claim of sexism here. I’ve noticed over many years that, given a free choice, women tend to choose userids based on their first name, while men choose userids based on their surname. But it’s an interesting example of gender differences.

Men who use a single name tend to do so because they’re very powerful or well-known: Donald, Bill (ambiguous), Napoleon. It’s not so clear that this applies to women.
Finally, a slightly relevant joke. A British general arrives at his car to find that he’s been assigned a new ATS (female) driver.

“What’s your name?”

“Mary, Sir”

“I can’t call you Mary. What’s your surname?”

“Darling, Sir”

“Drive on, Mary”


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