One aspect of my interest in language is names. Tonight, as I drove home from work, I saw a restaurant sign that included the name Mario, and it hit me for the first time: this name seems to do the opposite of what I usually notice names do.
Many female names are clearly adapted from older male names:
- Stephanie is a female Stephen
- Paulette is a female Paul
- Andrea is a female Andrew
- Roberta is a female Robert
- Michaela is a female Michael
- Patricia is a female Patrick
- Joan is a female John
- Christina is a female Christopher
Notice that most of these examples are from men in the Bible. This is important. As those names are very old and very influential in Western cultures, it’s natural that female versions would evolve.
Mario, however, seems to have gone the other way: if Mari-o and Mari-a are related, the older name is Maria, which in English is Mary. It makes sense that if names get adapted across genders because of age and cultural influence, especially Biblical names, then the name of the ultimate woman in the Bible would naturally produce a male version.
This is all just speculation, though–I’m not a linguist. But I’d like to look into this to see if I’m right.