Recently a question on Stack Overflow meta was edited by a moderator to remove the name Nancy with a gender neutral name Bob. His exact words were(emphasis mine)

Jon suggested Bob would work too. I like Bob. I have two uncles named Bob. Good gender-neutral name, Uncle Bob

Now to my actual question, I have so far heard the name Bob or Uncle Bob to denote male gender. I have never heard it used as a gender neutral name until now. Is the name Bob gender neutral?

  • 1
    Note: Comment not answer due to anecdotal-only status! I do not see it as such, although in speech, not writing, "Bobby/Bobbi" might be considered gender-neutral. Also in speech, not writing, "Joe/Jo" might serve as a gender-neutral name. The two names that I most often see as gender-neutral are "Chris" (for Christopher/Christine) and "Leslie" (unusual alternate spelling "Lesley"); I've also occasionally encountered "Audr(e)y" used by both men and women. – Jeff Zeitlin Oct 17 '19 at 11:28
  • 1
    That statement confused me too as a native speaker. I know those of use participating in Meta are a little bit exhausted by the conversation there, but I don't think this question deserves to be closed. – ColleenV Oct 17 '19 at 11:31
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers - The names chosen in those computing examples are generally not for gender-related informational purposes, but simply because they start with A and B respectively. If a third person is involved in the sequence, the name chosen may be male or female, but will start with C, and a fourth party will start with D. Please don't confuse the issue with irrelevant information. – Jeff Zeitlin Oct 17 '19 at 12:39
  • @FumbleFingers Why do you believe it is it off-topic to ask why someone said “Bob” was neutral gender? There's things like “Bob’s your uncle”, the A/B convention and other odd idioms and such that aren’t found in dictionaries. It could have been a joke that didn’t translate. – ColleenV Oct 17 '19 at 14:14
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Stuff here is not off-topic simply because it can be Googled and/or has an obvious-to-a-native-speaker answer. The OP thought Bob was a male name, but someone who appears to be fluent seems to be saying otherwise. I really think this is clearly on-topic, but folks are free to disagree with me. – ColleenV Oct 17 '19 at 14:50

No, Bob is not a gender-neutral name. It is overwhelmingly a male name.

"Bobby" is slightly closer to neutral, as it can be a shortened form of (among other possibilities) "Robert" (male) or "Roberta" (female). In the modern generation though this is still much more commonly a male name.

Gender-API.com, with which I am in no way affiliated, provides a gender inference service based on source data they describe as follows:

To provide the highest possible accuracy, we combine the data of multiple data sources. We use data from publicly available governmental sources and combine them with data we crawl from social networks, which provides you the best possible matches. Each name has to be verified by different sources to be added to our list.

The results for the name "Bob" are:

  • Gender: male
  • Accuracy: 99%
  • Samples: 12966

I can't vouch for the scientific quality of their data, but I do empirically agree completely with the result. To my knowledge I have never met a "Bob" or "Bobby" who identified female (but I have met both male and female "Bobbie").

| improve this answer | |
  • To add to that, we have a phrase in the UK "Hey presto! Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt" meant to represent the most obvious two facts in the world – Bee Oct 29 '19 at 14:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.