beatrice_otter: Captain America (Captain America)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter posting in [community profile] cap_chronism
I have a problem with always-a-girl genderswap AUs of Captain America.  Not because I dislike genderswap--in fact, I love a good genderswap.  Because of the name.  I know the genderswap convention is to just feminize the name (Tony becomes Toni, Steven becomes Stephanie, James becomes Jamie, etc.).  And there's a reason to do it that way; it's immediately obvious who the character is a genderswap of.

But the thing is, when people name babies, they don't have one name and then choose the female form or male form when they find out if it's a boy or a girl.  With some names, such as Anthony (Tony) vs. Antonia (Toni), they're both relatively popular names, and at that point I don't mind it.  But for Steven/Stephanie, well, let's take a look at some hard numbers, shall we?

I get my numbers from SSA.gov, which has name frequency rates for the top thousand names since 1896 available on its website.  Pulling up "Top Names of the 1910s," which includes Steve Rogers' year of birth, we find that Steve is 116 on the list, with 9,639 boys born in that decade named Steve.  Not the most common name, but not terribly unusual, either.  (James, by the way, was number three, with 275,079 boys in that decade named James, which may be why he went by "Bucky" instead.)  If we go over to the girl's side of the list, the name in the 116th slot is "Cora."  "Stephen" (spelled differently, but basically the same name) is 89 on the list, with 13,502 boys in that decade born with the name of Stephen.  (The corresponding girls' name is "Ellen").  If we take Steve and Stephen as basically the same name and add the numbers of boys with those names together, we get 23,141, which would put us up in the mid-50s on the list, between Chester and Herman (corresponding girls' names being Bessie and Pearl).

Where is Stephanie on this list of common American names in the decade of Steve's birth? It's not even on the list.  See, the bottom names on the list are the 200th most common names, and those are Bert and Lela, respectively.  Where was Stephanie?  Well, if we pull up the popularity of the name "Stephanie" from the same site, (here's the search page but I can't find a way to link the specific search) we find out that in 1918, Stephanie was the 333rd most popular girls' name.  In that decade, it varied between 423 and 302--hardly a name one would expect to see very often.  In the mid-40s, it began creeping up, until from 1960-2007 it was always higher-up than 100 on the list.  (It peaked from 84-87, when it hovered at 6th most popular name.)  People my age are named Stephanie, not people my grandparents age.

Now we should consider Steve's family background (after all, in his day, children were a lot more likely to be named unusual names if they were family/ethnic names.  It's not like today where couples get baby name books looking for exotic names they like.  There had to be a reason to name a child something unusual).  Well, Steve was a working-class Irish Catholic.  Stephanie is not a working-class Irish Catholic name.  The only reason I can think of for an Irish Catholic working-class family in 1918 naming their daughter "Stephanie" is if they were naming her after St. Stephen, but usually you do that if the child was born or baptized on the feast day of that saint, and St. Stephen's feast-day is December 26th.  And he's the patron saint of martyrs and stone-masons, so not necessarily the guy you'd choose to set up as the patron saint of your baby girl.  If Steve's father were named Steve, I can see "Stephanie" in honor of him after his death, but his name was Joseph.

So what can we call always-a-girl!Steve that would be more period appropriate than Stephanie?  Well, you could go with Cora, Ellen, Bessie, or Pearl (which were as popular as the variations of "Steve"), or you could go with something that sounds similar and is on the list of popular names.  Stella, for example, is at #64 out of 200 on the "Popular Names of the 1910s" page, and Estelle is at #125.  Those sound similar to Steve's name so it would be easy for the audience to remember, and they are actual period names that she might realistically have been called.

(Crossposted from my journal)

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