17.407 name frequencies?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Nov 25 2003 - 02:59:42 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 407.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 07:55:20 +0000
             From: "Douglas Galbi" <Douglas.Galbi@fcc.gov>
             Subject: name frequencies and the humanities

    New communication and information technologies make it
    much easier to compile, analyze, and share databases of
    names. Personal names are highly valued linguistic
    constructs. Moreover, since the beginning of written
    history, historical records have preserved names. It
    is worth considering analysis of names in humanistic

    Consider, for example, the turmoil over Marian devotion,
    and, more generally, word and image in sixteenth century
    England. A popular response to the turmoil in sense
    was an astonishing change in naming: across sixteenth
    century England, the share of women named Mary rose from
    less than 1% to about 10%.

    This change seems to be related to the development
    of theatre. In an important recent work, Stephen
    Greenblatt argues that Shakespeare's theatre recreated
    a cult of the dead. However, it seems to me that the
    living presence so many persons continue to sense in
    Shakespeare's characters points in a different direction.
    Shakespeare, who had a mother and a grandmother named
    Mary, but no sisters named Mary, was undoubtedly aware
    of the "problem" of Mary. Appreciation for Mary in
    popular sense in sixteenth-century England sheds new
    light on Twelfth Night, and perhaps Shakespeare's theatre
    more generally.

    You can find discussion and relevant references to these
    aspects of Shakespeare and sixteenth-century history in
    Section IV of "Sense in Communication," freely available
    at www.galbithink.org . Table 2, p. 99, and Appendix A,
    pp. 175-7 document long-term historical trends in popularity
    of the name Mary. The discussion of Twelfth Night is in
    Section IV.C, pp. 100-110.

    For more general research on trends in given names over
    the past millennium, see "A New Account of Personalization
    and Effective Communication," also available at

    I would welcome your thoughts and comments on this work
    and its implications for understanding communication. Have
    you considered analyzing name frequencies as part of your

    Douglas Galbi

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