Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jo: Gender Ambiguity

Say my Name Say My Name (It's Jo).

(Click to make large so you can read it.)

Well I was bored and procrastinating on my "Judith and Holofernes" post (still under construction), and thought to look up the meaning of the name "Jo."

My official reason for picking the name "Jo" for my pseudonym is this - (it can be found on my facebook page):
"How did I come up with this pseudonym? Improvisation in a prank call to my Dad when I was little! (Plus I like that Jo is my favorite character's name in Little Women.)"
However, I also happen to know that it is a variant upon my middle name, "Siobhan."

The girl's name Siobhan \

sio(b)-han\ is pronounced sha-VAHN. It is of Irish origin. Variant of Joan, which is a feminine form of John (Hebrew) "God'sgrace".

See? Siobhan to Joan to Jo.

Anyhow, I was looking up various meanings and things from all those goofy baby names websites, thinking about how vacuous existence is, when suddenly I hit upon this little unexpected piece of substance amongst the mess of advice for those who are expecting. And it got me thinking. Take a look:

"It's a girl!

Based on popular usage, it is 1.345 times more common for Jo to be a girl's name.

The popularity of Jo is: 5.438
(where 0 = extremely rare, 6 = super popular)

When naming your baby Jo, it's important to consider the gender of the name itself. When people look at the name Jo, they might ask the question, "is Jo a man or a woman?", or "what is the gender of the name Jo?" Some names are more gender neutral than others, and some names are more strongly associated with either males or females. Some spelling variations of the name Jo might be more popular than others. The Baby Name Guesser can answer all these questions about the name Jo. To find out more about Jo, Baby Name Guesser uses up-to-date data from across the Internet on how the name Jo is actually used."

I found this and thought, wow. Theory of Knowledge stuff (look up "TOK" on google. It is a class for IB). The expectations that go with a name. I will, by the way, avoid the stereoptypical shakespeare "Romeo and Juliet" quote that normally is included in discussions of this type. You know what it is. Even if you think you don't know, you know. And if you really don't know, you're a knucklehead and should ask the person next to you.

The expectations with a name. Huh. I smell blog entry! My pseudonym is so grand that it deserves further scrutiny. (Sorry to those that thought "Jo Bingo" was my real name *tear* unfortunately it is not. But it is the name of my soul. But it is the name of my soul.)

The photo above (click to enlarge, as always) is a screen capture of what came up when I google image searched "Jo." I thought this would be a cute little encapsulation of the ambiguity - concerning gender and otherwise - that goes with these to little adjacent letters. And like many google image searches, the result is kind of a mess. Like me - Like the rest of humanity (but this is not neccesarily a bad or a good thing. Sure, sometimes it is bad, and sometimes it is good, but most of the time it is neither. That's deep).

Note: Any pictures in this post are from my computer and strategically placed by myself and are not part of the quotes from outside websites. I will also in this entry avoid the issue of transgender-ness/ biological ambiguity for now, and just stick with male vs. female. That will not always be the case.

We're all accustomed to the typical gray area with gender - even sans transexuality (by the way - watch TransAmerica. Awesome movie), as I said. Take Da Vinci's the Madonna on the Rocks, for instance. One of the most widely recognizable images - nothing compared to the Mona Lisa, but we all grew up with various old school paintings of angels like this surrounding us.

And we were - or at least I was - always like, That is a gorgeous woman angel. Except not. That, apparently, is a gorgeous MAN angel. Old school angels are in fact rarely women. But just LOOK at him (he's the one pointing on the right - no wings, but an angel nonetheless. Angels in fact in legit historical/ renaissance paintings rarely have angel wings.) Just look. How is that a man? At all? Hmmm. TOK time: what expectations do we have, eh? Non-Annoying-Philosophy Time: Gender is such a confusing term why don't we just drop it and come up with different terminology that is just as scientifically taxonomy caterogized - just, different.

Furthermore, this next picture is a woman. But it is a corpse. (Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, I love you.) Does this mean that the attributes we associate with womanhood are acceptable even in a corpse? Or is life-force independent of the definition of gender? Of course it is, I/you/we think. You don't die and all of a sudden lose your gender. Or DO you? Or... why DON'T you? Think about it. TOK time: Woman - if it doesn't apply to living stuff (as in the presence of life is not in the definition), that means it is damn theoretical. Does that mean it is damn irrelevant, as well?

Okay, back to names. This woman's name is Elena, thanks to Modigliani's little label floating at the side of her head. I, personally, think she would make a decent "Jo." To me, she has this extremely feminine Tomboyish look. But if her name's Elena, than she is an Elena. Or is it just how Modigliani chose to paint her? Or not her face, but just her clothes? [Insert that annoying ubiquitous Shakespeare quote here.]

I will discuss the obvious subject that is included in my official statement regarding my pseudonym, THE "Jo March" of "Little Women." She deserves her own blog entry, in fact, she deserves hundreds of her own blog entries, but I will only give a little indication of the brilliance of the concomitance with my psuedonym. At the END of the post. This will lure you to at least skim all the stuff imbetween.

Enjoy the baby name information overdose:

From my Baby Names book (for the authorship purposes of coming up with names for characters), "The Big Book of 60,000 Baby Names" by Diane Stafford - "Jo" means "blessed."

Jo Meaning and Definition

  1. (n.) A sweetheart; a darling.

From: infoplease.


Pronunciation: ( jō), [key]
pl. joes.
beloved one; darling; sweetheart.


Pronunciation: ( jō), [key]
1. a female given name, form of Josephine.
2. a male given name, form of Joseph.


[joh] Show IPA
–noun, plural joes. Scot.
beloved one; darling; sweetheart.
Also, joe.
Origin: 1520–30; var. of joy


[joh] Show IPA
1.a female given name, form of Josephine.
2.a male given name, form of Joseph. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.
Cite This Source Link To Jo
jo (jō) n. pl. joes Scots Sweetheart; dear. [Alteration of joy.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source

jo networking The country code for Jordan. (1999-01-27)

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © 1993-2007 Denis Howe
Cite This Source


[joh-zuh-feen, -suh-] Show IPA
1.Empress (Marie Joséphine Rose Tascher de la Pagerie).Beauharnais, Joséphine de.
2.a female given name: derived from Joseph. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.

From: Google Search "history girl's name jo."

This seems to be cut off, so I'm including a screen capture:

From: Think Baby Names (they actually had an embedding option whoopeee!!!)

According to baby names site, the girl's name Jo \jo\, also used as boy's name Jo, is pronounced joh. It is of American origin. An independent name and short form of names like Joanna, Joanne, Jody and Josephine. Also sometimes used as a prefix Jo- in blends and compound names. Literary: Jo was the nickname of the second daughter in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women". See also Ja- and Je-.

Jo has 29 variant forms: Jobelle, Jobeth, Jodean, Jodelle, Joetta, Joette, Jolana, Joleesa, Jolene, Jolinda, Jolisa, Jolise, Jolissa, Jolyn, Jolynn, Jo-Marie, Jonell, Jonelle, Jonessa, Jonetia, Joniece, Jonique, Jonisa, Joquise, Jorene, Josanna, Josanne, Jovelle and Jozette.

For more information, see also the related name Joelle.

Baby names that sound like Jo are Io, Joi and Joy.

Jo is a very common first name for women (#250 out of 4276) and also a very common last name for both men and women (#13489 out of 88799). (1990 U.S. Census)

Displayed below is the baby name popularity trend for the girl name Jo.


Jo Name

According to baby names site, the girl's name Josephine \j(o)-sephi-ne, jos(e)-phine\ is pronounced JOH-sa-feen.It is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is "Jehovah increases". Feminine form of Joseph with the diminutive suffix -ine. Napoleon's famous Empress Josephine's real name was Marie Josephe. Cabaret celebrity Josephine Baker.

Josephine has 35 variant forms: Fifi, Fifine, Fina, Finetta, Finette, Guiseppina, Jo, Joette, Joey, Joline, Josana, Josanna, Josanne, Josee, Josefa, Josefena, Josefene, Josefina, Josefine, Josepha, Josephe, Josephene,Josephina,Josephyna,Josephyna, Josephyne,Josetta,Josette,Josey,Josiane, Josianna, Josianne, Josie, Josy and Jozsa.

Josephine is a very common first name for women (#121 out of 4276) but an uncommon last name for both men and women. (1990 U.S. Census)

Displayed below is the baby name popularity trend for the girl name Josephine.

Josephine Josephine Name

From: Name Berry. Popularity Rank in US top 1,000:

The following is from: Baby Name

This is from:

Popularity: The name Jo ranked 250th in popularity for females of all ages in a sample of the 1990 US Census.

This name is highly rated in the 1990 U.S. Census popularity survey of all ages, but after 1960 does not appear in the state data listing the most popular baby names.

Found this from She Knows.

English Meaning : 
The name Jo is a baby girl name. The name Jo comes from the English origin. In English the meaning of the name Jo is: Abbreviation of names like Joanna and Josephine. Also used as a prefix in compound names like Jobeth and Jolisa.

French Meaning : 
The name Jo is a baby girl name. The name Jo comes from the French origin. In French the meaning of the name Jo is: May Jehovah add. Addition (to the family). Also can be a diminutive of Joanne: God is gracious. French form of Joanna (from the Latin, Johanna) and the feminine form of John.

Latin Meaning : 
The name Jo is a baby girl name. The name Jo comes from the Latin origin. In Latin the meaning of the name Jo is: God is gracious. Feminine form of John (from the Latin, Johanna).

From: Meaning of Baby Girl Names.

The Meaning of the name JosephineThe meaning of the name Josephine is as follows: God Multiplies

The Origin of the name JosephineThe origin of the name Josephine is believed to be: French

From The Baby Name Wizard.

Origin of the name Josephine:

English form of the French Joséphine, a feminine form of Joseph, which is derived from the Hebrew Yōsēf (God will add, God will increase).


Okay, back to Modigliani for a sec. Now that you know much more than you probably ever wanted to know about the meaning and connotations of the name "Jo," which one of these five paintings by him do you think looks most like a "Jo," or that you might nickname Jo? (You can even order them from most to least if you want.)

Numbers, from left to right, 1 & 2:

Number 3:


Number 5:

If you have qualms with the choices I have laid out, or have a picture on the web you think is perfect for such a name, by all means tell and/or share the URL of the image with me.

And now, for the finale: "Little Women" - my second - no, let's be honest - my first bible.

This is the copy I have owned forever which is decidedly falling apart but I love it and hope it out lives me and it is PERFECT.

Again, click image for ultimate detail - 'cause it is a scan.  

This is one of the illustrations of Jo, at work, scribbling away:
Now, SHE looks like a Jo.

Okay, so my perfectionism won't allow me to begin writing on the charcater of Jo without writing a book. So I'll just have to submit these images to your observation and bemusings, and hope that you'll look forward to the future inevitable rants about THE "Jo March."

Till then, So Long,
-Just call me Jo

While on one of those ditzy but nonetheless useful baby name websites, this ad was on the bottom.  Ironic - but in a pleasant way - because I am currently full-fledged in a mammoth entry on the story of Judith and Holofernes - including many Judith and Holofernes paintings - in fact, including THIS Judith and Holofernes painting!
Close Up:

P.P.S. I love how I was going to talk about the Gender ambiguities of the name, and then I didn't. Well, hopefully you read all this with that in mind. AND - read little women.

Here is the text provided by Project Gutenburg:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

P.P.P.S. Sorry for the messiness of this entry.

Too much copy and pasting = Death.

P.P.P.P.S. I have not yet come to terms with the fact that "Fifi" is a variant of "Jo."


  1. Two, 4,3,1,5. That's the order. Two because she looks slighly rushed and a little shy, like she has things she is in the middle of but now has been introduced to you. She is obviously very smart. Four is another intelligent young lady, probably in the middle of writing a thesis, who is dressed up at an event, possibly her aunt's art gallery opening or some other elegant happening! Three is more of a Josephine, very self assured and not afraid to relax and enjoy herself! One is a very shy, almost mousy Jo. Very enigmatic. Five looks a little frumpy to me, though perhaps that is wrong because she obviously had someone do her hair in that daring style!

  2. Wow, thorough! Thanks for the FOLDOC reference, those bastards at refuse to link to the original site,, despite frequent requests.

    Denis Howe
    FOLDOC Editor.

  3. In reference to gender neutrality with the angel and perhaps also the corpse sections, certain of the early christian gnostics sects believed that the body did not matter at all, only the soul. Therefore, it did not matter whether you were male or female because that was of the body, not of the soul. Following this logic, certain of these groups allowed women to become priests. Needless to say these ideas were not accepted by the mainstream christian church.