Thanks to the ubiquity of QWERTY keyboards, we have developed a preference for words that contain more letters typed with the right hand.
Why? The theory is that, since we tend to prefer things associated with our dominant side, and most people are right-handed, the result is a slight society-wide preference for right-side keyboard letters. (An earlier theory, which I blogged about here, had to do with typing fluency.)
I’m bringing the QWERTY Effect up again because a new study has linked it to U.S. baby names specifically.
Researchers used SSA baby name data to see whether Right Side Advantage (RSA) levels in baby names — the RSA being the difference between the number of right-side letters and the number of left-side letters in a name — had changed significantly from the “pre-QWERTY era” (1960-1990) to the “QWERTY era” (1991-2012).
They did two analyses. The first looked at preexisting baby names that had been given to 100+ babies per year. The second looked at newly coined baby names (a.k.a. debut names).
In the first analysis, the researchers found that the mean RSA of preexisting baby names began increasing dramatically around the start of the QWERTY era. In other words, U.S. parents began favoring baby names typed with more right-side keys as QWERTY keyboards became more common.
In the second analysis, they found that names invented after 1990 had significantly higher RSAs (i.e., contained more right-side letters) than names that had been in use before 1990.
Interesting stuff, isn’t it?
Have your favorite baby names changed over time? If so, do your new favorites happen to have more right-side keyboard letters than your old favorites? :)