STEREOTYPES OF BRITISH CHILDREN’S FIRST NAMES

Julia Varfolomeyeva

Kamianets-Podilsky Ivan Ohienko National University

Scientific Supervisor: Nykytiuk S. I.

STEREOTYPES OF BRITISH CHILDREN’S FIRST NAMES

Abstract

This article deals with the name stereotype effects on aspects of personality, personal adjustment and psychopathology, perceptions of physical attractiveness, social success and popularity in society, self-concept and self-esteem, IQ and academic achievement, evaluation of academic work and performance.  In this case stereotypes make a great contribution in naming children in Great Britain.

Key words: stereotypes, personal names, derivatives, diminutives, traditional names

Parents can spend months searching for the perfect baby name. Some run their name shortlist past friends and family, while others keep it in a secret for fear of their unusual or even some unexpected choice becoming popular. Question about what people think seems to matter – so do we judge people by their names?

Naming a child can be difficult, and a new Mumsnet survey shows that 18% of people feel like they got it wrong. In fact, these 18% of parents regret the name they chose for their child, although only 2% have actually changed it [source 1]. Name is often the first thing someone finds out about you, and can shape any first opinions. But if you have a name you hate, or one that simply doesn’t suit you, it means that sometimes even the person who gave it has their reservations.

 “Consumed by pregnancy hormones, I decided to call my son Rafferty. I had no particular attachment to the name before I was pregnant, but for some reason, I tenaciously spent months convincing my husband this was the name for us. I regret it now, people think it’s his surname, no one can spell it, and when I introduce him to people they always ask me to repeat the name. Sometimes they respond, saying: “Oh, how unusual.” I hate shouting his name across a playground and inwardly cringe when I introduce him to people. I wish I had given him a classic name such as William or Benjamin. It doesn’t help that since his birth, a few C-list celebrities also have his name. We didn’t discuss the choice with anyone before making the decision; I wish we had now. My husband has come round to it and thinks it really suits our son.” These words were told by Sarah from Surrey in the magazine “The Guardian” [2]. And one more comment from Jasmine Daze, from Norwich. She speaks about her parents, were changing her name, because she didn’t suit it: “My parents regretted what they called me – I was named Sophie Jasmine, but at nine months they (unofficially) swapped my first and middle names around. They looked at me and realized I wasn’t a Sophie. According to my dad, even as a baby I was outgoing and wanted attention, and they felt Jasmine (Jaz for short) was much more fitting. It was also a more unique name in the 1990s” [2]. Due to this examples we can say that each name has associated characteristics, behaviors, and a look. These name stereotypes include a prototypical facial appearance such that we have a shared representation for the ‘right’ look associated with each name. Even parents make some mistakes on naming their children. Because of appearance changing the shapes or changing in behavior, and that’s why children stop being appropriate to their names. That’s why not all exuberant and unusual names are suitable for children.

If history of giving personal names have a negative experience it will associate that person with another one with the same name.  The frequency of personal given names shows important historical proves about the information economy. Persons who have the same name literally share the experience of being called by that name. The frequency distribution of names thus indicates an aspect of shared symbolic experience. Choosing a good name involves assessing the social valuation of a name. Such stereotypes have passed on a long time from our ancestors and associatively were learned.

Christopher Andersen has worked with the findings of several other researchers and has developed an unusual list of names and their stereotypes. So due to him we can look through what stereotypes of common names where popular in 1986 [1]. And the table below consists only of a little part of Andersen’s classification.

Table 1. Stereotypes of British Common Names

Ann – ladylike and honest, but not pretty Charles – masculine, popular but not overly active
April – spritely Christopher – diligent, intelligent
Barbara – forceful, successful, fat but sexy David- not quite as terrific as Dave, but still an undeniable winner
Elizabeth – seductive Eric – a big winner – very strong
Katharine – determined, strong-willed, comely John – trustworthy, surprisingly passive but manly
Linda – utterly, feminine, extremely popular and energetic Joseph – intelligent, earnest but dull
Margaret – a bit dowdy Kevin – very popular, virile
Mary – wholesome, womanly, active Mark – spoiled
Nicole – average on all counts Nickolas – very strong
Rebecca – sweet Robert – diffident
Sarah – sensual and selfish Robin – sissified

With the help of this table, we can notice that stereotypes associated with given names have different evaluative consequences for the person, result in differential expectations and treatment of the person, and are consequentially reflected in psychological and behavioral differences associated with the stereotypic evaluation.

Until now, we have been talking about the development of full or original names that are used for naming people in the documents, which certify the identity of the owners as well as when referring to people in an official setting. Full or original names are derived forms or derivatives (abbreviations, petting, diminutive), which are used mainly in an informal setting, in a circle of friends, children and relatives. The number of derivatives cannot be accurately recorded. As a model for the formation of derivatives, abbreviations and affixing word production prevail: Ben from Benjamin, Dam from Daniel, Danny from Daniel, Jimmy from James, Betty from Elizabeth, Johnny from John and others. Sometimes a single name may have several derivatives. Currently, derivatives often become legal, official names. There is a tendency to use them in a business setting, in print, in public exhibitions.

All this historical changes were evoked by certain peoples’ stereotypes. Due to historical personal name changes names can shape what other people think about each other’s personalities. The fact that gender, age and race could seem to affect name bias is depressing. Of course, unpopular or unusual names don’t necessarily mean your destiny is sealed, but it happens very often that your name has its own definition.

This research has checked the name stereotype effects on aspects of personality, self-esteem and academic achievements. The tendency of stereotypical influence on naming children in Great Britain was analyzed. And due to this tendency new ways of shortening and changing names were found in order to avoid these stereotypes.

References:

  1. Журнал “New Idea” URL: https://www.newidea.com.au/shocking-name-stereotypes-from-1986-baby-book-will-stun-you

(дата звернення: 13.03.2019)

  1. Журнал “The Guardian” URL: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/02/baby-name-regrets-naming-child-parents (дата звертання: 13.03.2019)

2 thoughts on “STEREOTYPES OF BRITISH CHILDREN’S FIRST NAMES

  1. Actually it is the fist time I come across the work on names stereotypes. I’m really surprised to learn that derivatives became legal, official names and used in a business setting. Do you think names determine what people will grow up to become?

    1. Thank you for your comment!
      I think that names can determine our future in some way. But our deeds every moment may change everything. So, in this case, names represent our personality only from the one side, which is opened for everyone.

Comments are closed.