Saturday, August 14, 2004

What's in a Name?

Michael Quinion of World Wide Words has an interesting tidbit in his newsletter this week. Apparently the vowel sound might make a difference to your perceived sexiness, according to a study carried out by linguist Amy Perfors of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Chicago. She posted pictures of men and women with fake names on a Web site and asked visitors to rate them. She found that males whose names have a vowel sound that's formed at the front of the mouth, such as the "a" in "Matt" or the "e" in "Ben", were thought more attractive than those whose names contained vowels made at the back, such as the "aw" sound in "Paul". The opposite is true for female names. This suggests that a common assumption of linguists, that vowels are arbitrary sounds lacking intrinsic meaning, may not be the whole truth.