Before you name that poor unsuspecting child after your great-uncle Genghis, or something even less explicable, you might want to consider the ramifications thereof:
A poorly chosen baby name can lead to a lifetime of neglect, reduced relationship opportunities, lower self-esteem, a higher likelihood of smoking and diminished education prospects, according to a new study of nearly 12,000 people.
The research, which appears in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, is thought to offer the firmest conclusions to date that “unfortunate” first names evoke negative reactions from strangers, which in turn influence life outcomes for the worse.
“There seems to be prejudice based on name valence (or associations),” says study co-author Wiebke Neberich.
At which point I dropped the transcription and attempted to come up with a mental image that fit the name “Wiebke Neberich”; I wound up with “Deadly Serious Science Genius Girl.” And then, purely for the sake of illustration of course, I happened upon the picture at left, from Dr Neberich’s days at the Max Planck. But this sort of musing practically defines prejudice, so I immediately denounced myself, and then, properly humbled, I returned to the original article:
The study is based on users of the European matchmaking website eDarling, where researchers found most people would sooner remain single — and continue paying for online dating — than consider a romantic partner with an unappealing name… In one of the researchers’ experiments, online daters whose names carried the most positive valence (Alexander) received 102 per cent more profile visits, relative to opportunity, than daters whose names carried the worst valence (Kevin)… Across all tests, which drew on 11,813 adults, those with “unfortunate” first names were generally more likely to smoke, be less educated and have lower self-esteem than those whose names were considered positive.
At eDarling, I turned up two things: a better picture of Dr Neberich, and an infographic (titled “Hot or Not?”; click on “Snapshot”) which details some of the name results. Perhaps Kevin and Chantal are stuck with each other.
Still, you can always do worse. From Nancy’s Baby Names:
In 1931, a couple in Hilden, Germany, tried to name their baby girl Hitlerike in honor of Adolf Hitler. The registrar rejected the name.
The father sued. The court ruled in favor of the father, noting that similar political names such as Bolshewika (for Bolshevik) and Stahlhelmina (for the Stahlhelm) had been accepted in the past.
Along similar lines, this is the Fark headline for the study: “People with unfortunate names are more likely to be abused and get ill, reports Dave Hitler.”
(Title swiped from Lionel Shriver.)