When and how you choose your children’s names varies as much as any other choices we make as parents. Some of us pick the names when we are children, we have ideas and fantasies of who these wonderful people will be that we get to name. We choose something beautiful and meaningful, something the people we love the most in the world will use as an anchor to identify themselves through their lives.
The names we choose for them say something about us too, don’t they. Hipster parents give their kids hipster names, conventional parents give their children robust names that don’t stick out, yet carry weight. I know I had rules for myself, things I wanted the names to say about my kids, and their mom.
I have often heard when parents have chosen a name that isn’t what was expected that “they didn’t even give the kid a chance.” That’s how important that name is, to people who don’t get to name the baby, and whose business it really isn’t, but we all have opinions don’t we? The category we choose names from establishes our tribe, shows how educated, traditional, hip, artistic or controversial we are.
A friend of mine gave her daughter a very unusual name, that isn’t pronounced how it is written and causes confusion at first meeting. It’s a beautiful name but I would lie if I didn’t say it took me tens of times of saying it to get it right. She wanted her to earn her name, always on edge, controversial from first glance. It turns out that it might end up attracting romantic partners who are risk takers, an edgy name attracts people who are not intimidated by it.
My children have old and a little odd names, not family names but names that mean something to me, that have an energy I wish for them. My daughter’s name is Dora. I had a friend in college named Dora and she was so grounded, so wise and such a beautiful person. I didn’t know about Dora the explorer when I named her 🙂 It also means gift in Greek, which felt appropriate, she truly is a gift.
My middle son’s name is Jakob and I had nothing to do with choosing his name. My husband had a dream when I was pregnant that he had a son and his name was Jakob, and that was it. I got to give him his middle name, I saw this ray of sunshine when I imagined him, so his middle name is Surya.
My youngest is named Wilbur, it was my choice. My husband wanted him to be a Silas, but he is definitely my little warrior wild boar Wilbur.
When my mom brought me home after birth her neighbor and my godmother exclaimed “Hanna is home”, and that is how I got my name. This odd eccentric artist living next door who loved me unconditionally, gave me my name and my mom thought it was perfect. I love that story.
So we have all the emotional reasons we choose names, what does the science tell us about our names?
In 2007 a study was made that tells us that children with names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to be admitted to schools even if kids with names further along have higher scores.
A study from 2013 tells us that people with a name towards the end of the alphabet are more likely to be impulse shoppers, they think it might be always waiting for your name to be called that leads to impatience.
People like easy.
There is bias in schools, boys with girls names are more likely to be suspended.
And the bias is there in romance where names that are difficult to pronounce are associated with higher risk takers.
For women it is beneficial to have a gender neutral name, especially in typically male dominated fields of work. A study from Clemson University shows that a woman who changed her name from Sue to Cameron was three times more likely to become a judge.
I somehow doubt that many parents think about all the statistical reasons a name would be more beneficial than another when picking theirs. I do know some who have named their kids for the gender they wanted, not what they got, but then Frankie or James can be kickass names for girls, don’t you think? I did know an Italian man when I was younger whose name was Simone Maria, he said it was because his mom wanted a girl. It worked for him.