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How True Is "A Boy Named Sue"?

We are expecting a girl and are thinking about naming her Harvey, after a relative. Are we crazy? Are we essentially "naming a boy Sue"?

–It's a Girl, Really

In the Johnny Cash song, released in 1969, the eponymous narrator laments:

And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk
It seems I had to fight my whole life through
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue"

It turns out that Cash (and the songwriter… Shel Silverstein!) was on to something.

Economist David Figlio has done studies showing that giving boys feminine-sounding names does, in fact, put them at greater risk for acting out and getting in trouble.

But here's a surprise: There's no female equivalent to the "boy named Sue." Figlio found that having masculine-sounding names gives girls academic and career advantages, instead of hurting them. Life’s just not fair that way!

So giving your daughter a traditionally male name isn't the same as naming a boy Sue. Plus, Harvey has a lot going for it: The family connection, first and foremost, will go a long way in quieting anyone impolite enough to voice their criticism of the name. Harvey is surging in popularity in England (for boys), and showing signs of resurrection in the U.S. too. And finally, Harvey also shares sounds with some popular, stylish girls' names, like Harper, Harmony, Harlow, and Harley (not to mention that fashionable "V" sound). You're not crazy, you’re just ahead of the curve!


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July 31, 2017 8:10 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Are you envisioning your future daughter as tall, thin, beautiful, and witty? Now think of your and your husband's female relatives. Which one is the ugliest? Imagine that relative with the name Harvey. Which one is the most masculine-looking? Imagine that relative with the name Harvey.

A male name is a charming peculiarity on a girl or woman who otherwise fits society's expectations perfectly. For a girl/woman who is struggling with appearance and self-acceptance, a masculine name can be a burden.

July 31, 2017 9:34 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Yes, I agree with previous comments. If you must use Harvey for a girl, I think it would be best if placed in the middle name position.

Another option would be to find a similar looking feminine name & use Harvey as a nickname. At least that way, she'll have something to fall back on if she wants it. I think something like Harmony, Harper, Harvest, Harlow or even Harriet could work.

July 31, 2017 11:56 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

For a first name, I think I'd use a variant: Harlow is my favourite! As a Plan B, perhaps consider the middle name spot? Plan C, maybe the relative has a fave name or surname or flower, hometown, movie/fictional character you could use?

Good luck to you!

July 31, 2017 2:17 PM
By Amy (not verified)

Harvie? Harvi? Harvee? Harvye? Out loud the name would still seem masculine to me, but these spellings would certainly read more feminine (although the girl would constantly be having to spell out her name for people).

July 31, 2017 4:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Ugh. That just seems like a headache though. Like you said, it'd still sound like the boy's name Harvey, with the added bonus of looking like a misspelled version.

August 1, 2017 7:21 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Because I've liked Harvey but we didn't have a boy and what is old is new again, and yes because of Harley for a girl of some tastes it was a matter or time, could I be allowed to make some suggestions on the friendliest of terms? Consider also Hattie, Charlie, Carlie, Karlan, Haley, Harlan, Heidi, Ivy, Davie, and Navy some of these were also on my own short list or are fantastic women or girls I know-- for my girls and having narrowed it down I waited until she was in my arms before being so inspired and actually met her. Congrats and best wishes.

August 1, 2017 8:05 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Iagree! A family member said to imagine my child is shy or quiet and then has a unique or obscure name. This is definitely one I would middle name.

August 2, 2017 10:35 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is a tough one for me, because I'm generally favor keeping names in their traditional gender. But I also tend to love names with family connections.

My tie breaker is your social circle. I can picture a girl named Harvey in and Old Money lifestyle, with friends Barnett and Padget. If her friends are most likely to be Mia and Chloe, I'd move Harvey into a middle name spot.

August 2, 2017 10:16 PM
By Juli (not verified)

As the Name Lady points out, whatever our society's advances toward gender equality, in names we are still just as sexist as we were 700 years ago: it's still OK to give a girl a man's name, but not vice versa.
Before you perpetuate this societal inequality, think long and hard about what it says about you, and especially what it says to your daughter.
Are you absolutely certain that you want to reinforce in her very _name_ that it's better to be a boy?

August 7, 2017 10:26 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It's fine to name your daughter Harvey, as long as you're equally happy naming your son Gladys.

August 17, 2017 2:38 PM
By M (not verified)

Let's just consider the image the name Harvey has first, before we get into the gender part. The three Harveys that come to my mind first are Harvey Milk, murdered gay rights activist; Harvey Dent, Batman villain; and the imaginary rabbit in that old Jimmy Stewart movie. All the associations are dated, though Harveys Milk and Dent were film characters in 2008. This is a dated name but perhaps not dated enough for a comeback. Between Harveys Fierstein, Levin, and Weinstein, it seems like a name for older Jewish men, a la Seymour, Bernie and Melvin. It's from the same generation of names as Carol, Linda, Dick, and other grandparent names. I wouldn't recommend this for a little boy and I certainly wouldn't recommend it for a little girl. Go for the middle name instead.

August 30, 2017 3:55 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, I do believe this name will not be used. Definitely not for any girl anyway. Blah!

September 26, 2017 7:06 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I suspect the letter writer is a fan of "Suits", and wants to name the baby girl after Harvey Specter. I really like the first comment. Imagine your daughter being (potentially) lumpy and middle-aged, not a cute newborn. The name Harvey might be quite a burden. I dislike the current trend of giving girls masculine names, as I think it implies that one has to be male to be strong or powerful. There are SO many strong/powerful female names one could rather use.

February 27, 2018 4:06 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I hope these parents did not choose to name a girl Harvey right before the release of all the stories about how gross Harvey Weinstein has been toward women. If so, change the poor girl's name. Please.

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