While looking at names of American Presidents I noticed that English men’s names almost always stress the first syllable. Barack Obama is unusual in that he’s only the second President (after Ulysses Grant) whose name does not have a stress on the first syllable. I then looked at all the Vice Presidents, and it’s the same – every one of them has a first-syllable stressed name.
Looking at first ladies’ names the story is different. Taking the search away from Presidents and just looking at first names in general, what I found was that there’s an overall trend that while women’s names may be stressed on either the first or second syllables with about equal frequency, men’s names are almost universally stressed on the first.
This is not the case in every language, or even in just in western languages. Take a name like “Louis”. Pronounced in French, the word is stressed on the second syllable, but the same name in English is stressed on the first, and there are countless examples of this if you compare English names to French, Spanish, Italian, etc. It may be a trend with Germanic languages. German men’s names tend to stress the first syllable as well.
My question is – why? Where does this trend come from? Has it always been this way? Is there some reason why only men’s names have this common trend and not women’s?