What’s in a name? A lot, actually

As Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Usually, the information we can tell by a person’s name is limited to which decade they were born and the area or background from which they come.

A woman named Tiffany was probably born in the 1980s, when the name reached the height of its popularity, while a man named Pierre is probably from a French-speaking background.

Some, however, believe that you can even determine a person’s personality, based on their name.

A 2009 study conducted by Bounty.com, a parenting site based in the United Kingdom, showed that 49 per cent of the 3,000 teachers involved in the study, make assumptions about a child’s behaviour when they see a name on their class lists.

According to the study, boys named Callum, Connor and Jack, and girls with the names Chelsea, Courtney and Chardonnay were most likely to cause problems in class, while children named Alexander, Elisabeth, Adam, Charlotte, Christopher and Emma were likely to be the brightest students.

Chelsea Irwin, a first-year Graphic Design program student at Niagara College, said she believes that this study might be right.

“None of the girls named Chelsea that I have known in my life have been big fans of school. I wouldn’t say that I’m the worst behaved student, but I do get bored easily and that causes me to not always do assignments when I have no interest in them,” Irwin said.

A similar study involving parents of children between the ages of one and four was conducted by Bounty.com in 2010. It showed toddler girls named Rose, Sophia, Victoria, Faith and Isabel were most likely to be difficult to handle, while girls named Connie, Maddison and Rachel were less likely to throw a temper tantrum.

David Figlio, a researcher at the University of Florida, examined the children in a large Florida school district from 1996 to 2000. He found girls with feminine names, such as Kayla and Isabella, were more likely to choose studies in humanities, whereas girls with unisex names like Morgan and Casey often chose math and science-based classes.

Figlio also found that boys with names that sounded more feminine, such as Ashley or Mackenzie, were more likely to have behavioural problems as they grew up, which also linked to lower test scores. This can have a big impact on future career choices.

However, Abby Sandel, creator of Appellation Mountain, a popular naming blog, believes all the influence a name has on your future, is indirect.

“I think it is more often the case that parents who choose unusual names might already be on a less conventional path in life. That makes it tough to unravel which has the greater impact — the name, or the rest of the lifestyle choices that go along with the name? Certainly some kids rebel and you meet the odd accountant who grew up with circus performer parents or vice versa.”

Sandel also believes if you were to survey 3,000 children, they would likely be less judgemental than a group of 3,000 adults.

“I think kids tend to be very accepting. Maybe that sounds unrealistic, but names have become so diverse.

“If everyone you know is the only person with that name, then no name is weird. Happily, that’s been the experience for many kids born in the last decade or so. (My daughter is Clio. She’s the only Clio in her class, obviously, but my son is Alex. He’s also the only Alex in his class — which you might not expect.)

“But adults? Oh, we’re awful! And that’s the problem. I see other adults judging children’s names all the time. In that sense, the safest course might be to name your kids William and Elizabeth, or at least Mason and Ava.”

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