Baby Names, Just Pick Something Traditional

This one is going to be controversial but I have a firm belief that the name you choose for your child can be a predictor of future success and happiness. There have been studies that show that this is the case but I am going based more on personal experience than anything else.

Let’s start by looking at the top baby names of 2016 from the site The top 10 list is pretty safe. Names like Noah, Liam, Olivia and Sophia are good, traditional names and indicate a certain amount of traditional adherence to their parents’ upbringing. It’s when you start getting into the rank of 20 and below that we start seeing some trouble popup. Number 23 is Jayden, not particularly traditional, not particularly associated with families with a strong socio-economic status. Of course there are counter examples but again, I am going based on observation of what I see around me.

Next up on the list, Jaxon, with that spelling in particular. Non traditional spellings of names are a big red flag. If you can’t be bothered to spell it correctly then you probably are not thinking your choice through all that well and that might say something about you and your frame of reference. Then as we continue to push down into the list we find Skylar, Layla, Brooklyn, Brayden, and Savannah. While Skylar could be Ok, the others are not looking so hot. These are trendy names that indicate the parent is more interested in the hot name of the moment rather than sticking with something tried and true. If you base your names off what you see on TV and in the gossip pages, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that maybe that wasn’t the best choice and maybe you may not be as classy as you think.

Now that I have surely ticked some of you off, let us end with some links out to sites more reputable than mine who have confirmed what I am saying above. There is a great article in the New Yorker about why names matter and I would encourage you all to read it.

A second article, from the BBC has one of the better quotes in it that I have found:

But for the main part, he says, the effect of a name on its bearer rarely amounts to more than the effect of being raised by parents who would choose such a name.

This about sums it up for me. It is not the name that causes the issue itself but the parents that chose the to name their child in a manner that would openly expose them to teasing, ridicule or some other form of harassment. And from the same article, the socio-economic point that I make above is reiterated:

However, there is no evidence that it’s the names causing such a marked discrepancy, rather than other factors they represent, Clark says. Different names are popular among different social classes, and these groups have different opportunities and goals.

I think this point is the most important one. People in different socio-economic classes tend to name their children different. In turn, this establishes a group identity within that class. While the name does not prevent the child from moving beyond that group, it certainly makes it harder as it helps to cement their identity within a particular class of people.

So the moral of the story? Don’t name your kids based on the latest trends, don’t name them something because that is what all your friends are doing, name them based on where you want to see them go. While it can’t predict their success, it certainly can’t hurt and it will only improve their odds.


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