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Summary Details

Query:   Ordering of Names
Author:  Cate Dolan
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Discourse Analysis

Summary:   Regarding query:

I received a number of helpful responses for my query (number 16.2635)
regarding patterns in the order of names (i.e. do you say ''Rick and
Sally'' or ''Sally and Rick'' and why).

The following papers were recommended:

Benor, Sarah Bunin and Roger Levy. To appear. ''The Chicken or the Egg? A
Probabilistic Analysis of English Binomials.'' Language. (available at:

Cooper, William E. and Ross, John Robert. Word Order. In Papers from the
parasession on functionalism. Chicago Linguistic Society.

Wright, Saundra K.; Jennifer Hay; Tessa Bent: ''Ladies First? Phonology,
frequency, and the naming conspiracy.'' Linguistics 43, 3, May 2005,
531-561. (full article at:; article

Wright, Saundra and Jennifer Hay (2002) Fred and Wilma: A Phonological
Conspiracy. In Benor, S., M. Rose, D. Sharma, J. Sweetland and Q. Zhang
(editors), Gendered Practices in Language , 2002 , Stanford, CA : CSLI

an older paper by Haj Ross's paper on 'freezes' (for the Chicago
Linguistics Soceity)

an older paper by by Keith Allan in the Journal of Linguistics

Observations/Generalizations suggested to me include:

- the person that the speaker knows best comes first (e.g. close by blood
or friendship)

- sonority hierarchy (ordering vowels in a certain way – e.g. why
“ding-dong” and not “dong-ding”; vowel initial words first, front vowels first)

- shorter names first

- politeness sometimes puts woman first?

- general form puts the woman’s name second (sex-ranking within society?)

- the name of the person who is more agentive is listed first

And one interesting case was pointed out:

When the imfamous robbers “Bonnie and Clyde” are mentioned, the name
listed first is not only female but also longer (defying the patterns).
Apparently, the duo was traditionally referred to as 'Barrow and woman' or
the 'Barrow pair' by the New York Times, or as 'Clyde and Bonnie' by those
who knew them better. The current more popular order of ''Bonnie and
Clyde'' is possibly able to be attributed to a poem written by Parker
in which the order 'Bonnie and Clyde' is frequently used at the ends of
lines (for reasons of rhyming?).

LL Issue: 16.3105
Date Posted: 28-Oct-2005


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