By any other name….

4 May

Stolen, in part from The Situationist.

Maybe your name has more to do with your interests and passions than you think.  I personally have an “odd” name in real life. I find it’s done two things for me-caused expectations to be different that those for other girls, and also created an expectation that I was “weird”. (Not that I fought that perception all that hard).

The article in question makes the argument that

In a study of 55,000 children, the exam marks of those with ‘lower-status’ names – often spelled in an unusual way or including punctuation – were on average 3 to 5 percentage points lower than siblings with more traditional names. One of the reasons was that teachers had lower expectations of them.

I know that personally, I do have certain expectations of someone named “Phoenix”, and what that person will be good at, or their intelligence. Which, I know, is ridiculous. But we all do it don’t we? Betty Sue will be looked at differently than say, Grace or Dianne.

But is the trouble the expectations of other people, or our own expectations and how we grow into our names? I had to grow into mine. It sticks out, less now than it used to, but I had to become that person who had the “weird” name. I became the freak, the weirdo, the not a girl/not a boy. My expectations were skewed by my own beliefs in what my name meant for me, and what other people expected from such a strange named little girl.

This is complicated for me by the fact that I have a birth name as well. A boring name that I hated from the moment I saw it. A name that, to me, meant someone bitchy and retentive. It wasn’t my name. Maybe it never was. But would I be a different person with that name? Would I be humourless, and good at math as opposed to writing?

What do you think? What say you? Do you think you’ve altered your child’s potential based on what you named them?

9 Responses to “By any other name….”

  1. bine May 4, 2007 at 12:46 pm #

    it’s a strange thing that we are – however unconsciously – judged by our names. i guess our names say a lot more about our parents than about ourselves, yet we think cynthia is prissy and alex is a tomboy. i have a very common name and hated the fact that there were three of us in my class in one year in school. but i didn’t envy those who had to spell their exotic names to every new teacher or classmate either. i didn’t have a “weird” name to grow into, but my man has an uncommon name for a german and he sure was a rebellious teenager and has grown into a brilliant, very creative person, but then that may be caused more by his being raised in an artist family – just the type of parents that would give you an unusual or foreign name, too.
    that’s another funny thing – that “weird” names may just be foreign and quite common in other parts of the world. you share a name with one of my great-aunts and one of my great-grandmothers. those kind of old fashioned german names had kind of a revival in the nineties. i wouldn’t have thought twice about your name. i like it a lot, in fact. i didn’t have any children to name, but if i had had a little girl, i would definitely have thought about it. and here it wouldn’t have been a “freak name”.

  2. radicalmama May 4, 2007 at 12:49 pm #

    I get a lot of comments on the girls names: Ava, Emma, and Eleanor. People think it’s great that I stuck with “traditional” and “feminine” names. I deliberately chose names that I though sounded professional and intelligent. So, yeah, I assume that people will have certain expectations of them when they grow.

  3. thordora May 4, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    i LOVE Eleanor. LOVE IT! But then, I also loved Beryl and Ruby, and Evelyn. I like older, classic names for girls. Something with substance.

    I wanted names as well that didn’t sound retarded if CEO was attached.

    Bine-Dora isn’t actually my name. It’s much weirder than that. 🙂 I like Dora as a name though….

  4. bine May 4, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

    ah, i see. i was wondering. now you’ve made me curious 🙂
    still, i wonder if we become as weird as our names or as weird as the parents who pick weird names …

  5. Marcy May 4, 2007 at 1:41 pm #

    I’ve thought about my name a lot. Technically it comes from Mars, god of war, although that wasn’t what my parents were thinking. I like the synonym “contentious,” which I think fits.

    I have straight brown hair and bangs and wear glasses, but I prefer to wear it longer than my Peanuts comic namesake does. We share some other similarities, too, like the need to fill silence, a little nerdiness, a little shyness, and a little frankness.

    We picked Amy for our little one because it’s ordinary without being top ten, and because it means “beloved.”

  6. Jen May 4, 2007 at 5:23 pm #

    We chose Lucinda for Luce for several reasons. First because it’s not out-there weird but also not dime a dozen like C’s and my names. Second, because it can shorten into a couple of nicknames if, like me, she ends up wanting to experiment. Third, because Lucinda, to me, sounds both romantic and capable.
    I wonder what having incredibly common names means in terms of expectations. As a Jennifer, I’m not sure I can think of any specific connotations besides ‘most likely born in the 1970s’ or ‘parents lacked imagination.’ 🙂

  7. Eden May 4, 2007 at 8:04 pm #

    We chose a name that sounds trendy but is very old and easy to spell (still we get asked, “Z-o-e?”). It does require the umlaut though. Is that considered punctuation? W/o the umlaut, it rhymes with “toe.”

    I hated my name growing up b/c it was uncommon in my age group and no one could spell it. There are a slew of Stephanies a little younger than I am and now I rarely have to spell it unless someone goes to use an F in it. Uck.

  8. Kassie May 4, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    I picked Hannah for my daughter because its a palindrome and I liked the sound of it. Maybe its because I had really terrible OCD when I was pregnant, and it mirrors itself and is equal. I chose Dylan for my son because it sounded nice with my husbands first name as a middle name. Dylan James. It just flows. I really liked some of the more unusual Indian names, but with our last name I had to keep it kind of simple. My name Kassie is difficult. Everyone thinks I am Cathy or Casey. I admit to letting patients call me that because I get tired of correcting them. I like it though. I am named for Momma Cass Elliott from the Mamas and the Papas.

  9. Kind of Crunchy Mama May 6, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    What Venessa said 😀

    When choosing names we tried to picture how the wee ones would function in different situations with those names as adults.

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