Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is your name yours? How your name affects your success...


Made by Andrea Micheloni

Not too long ago I read What's in a name? by Veronica Mitchell. She'd read the NPR/USA Today article, Blame it on your name, that shared new research results: "a preference for our own names and initials — the 'name-letter effect' — can have some negative consequences." Veronica's post and that article got me thinking about names, and their importance.

Changing to my husband’s name and shedding my maiden name was no love lost for me. By the time we married, I’d have gladly married any other name just for a change. My maiden name was a trial; I was sick of spelling it, pronouncing it, explaining it, and dealing with the thoughtless rude comments about it.

My sister and I dreamed and planned for the day we could shed that name.

So I wonder, sometimes, whether I adequately considered what a name change would actually mean. Heritage and genealogy matter to me and my maiden name reflected a great deal of familial history. History I don't think I valued enough at the young age I married. In fact, my maiden name will be a blip on my overall life story. In a few years, I will have been Julie Pippert longer than I carried my birth name.

However, I don't regret my choice.

I am glad that the family shares the same name. I grew up with different last names in the family and that always lead eventually to some embarrassing moment or personal explanation.

I’m not very fond of my first name, either, which seems too bubbly and flighty for my personality and carries no possible nicknames other that Jules or (gag) Ju-Ju.

So I spent a lot of time planning different names for myself. I very nearly legally changed mine to Julia when I turned 18. I thought that would be a minimal change that appeased me. But the idea really, really upset my mother.

Which begs the question: who “owns” the name? And what effect does it have on your life, really?

As a parent I know I very carefully selected my children's names. I wanted something strong and feminine, something good for childhood and adulthood, and something that would be flexible and benefit them in their lives. I tried to consider not only my own reaction to the name, but also what society's reaction would be. I'm sensitive to this because I believe people have drawn conclusions about me as a Julie that they might not have had I been a Catherine.

Albert Mehrabian, Ph.D. says this is true in his book about baby names and the effects names have on us and our lives, "Many parents select names for their babies using the name of someone they like or admire (a relative, a movie star, a politician, a character in a book, a childhood friend). Unfortunately, the personal associations one has to another's name rarely reflect consensus associations of the general public. In this way, many children are given names that have neutral or even negative connotations."

Most parents I know seem to understand this principle.

For example, yesterday, I attended a baby shower. One of the games was to create baby names out of the parents' names. The mother-to-be was to select the winner based on the name she liked best. As we went around the room reading the names we created, one lady apologized, "I don't know why but every name I came up with sounds like a cheerleader, I'm sure you won't like any of them!" Both parents are engineers who work for NASA. Rocket scientists. It's assumed they won't be pushing their child down any primrose cheerleading paths, and thus will eschew names such as Tiffany. That's probably a good assumption.

The more interesting assumption was that each name the lady thought of was likely to be a cheerleader sort of person. What is a cheerleader sort of person, and what sort of name is a cheerleader sort of name? I bet you have specific ideas. I think most of us do.

That's the point: names matter, and they carry connotations that can benefit or adversely affect us.

When we do not know a person, we gather any information possible to begin sorting and identifying who this person could be. Often, the name is all we have to go on, and while we generally don't form conclusions about a person solely on their name, we do often form impressions. The impressions, of course, reflect more on who we are than who the stranger is, but nevertheless, that affects our interactions.

For example, imagine that you are a hiring manager in charge of sorting through resumes to select candidates for interviews. Picture a resume. What's the most prominent and first thing you see? Often, the candidate's name is most prominent. And that name might sway your initial "feeling" about this candidate.

In fact, it might affect that candidate's potential success
Ohio University researchers asked participants to read descriptions of people—including their name and occupation—and found that they deemed women with a more feminine name such as Emma more likely to be successful in traditional female occupations such as nursing, while men with a more masculine name like Hank were expected to excel at jobs like plumbing—traditionally considered a male career.

The results suggest that people with names that don't "fit" their desired career might have more difficulty finding work than equally qualified colleagues with more fitting names.

Perhaps I should have made that name change, after all. My career field is a studious and serious one...has my flirty name held me back?

In the end, though, once people get to know me, instead of me being "a Julie sort of person," the name "Julie" becomes a me sort of name.

What do you think about the effect of names? Do you like your own name? How do you select names when naming someone (characters in a story, children, pets, etc.)? Do you agree that names carry connotations, and does this affect your selection process when naming?

For more interesting reading about the effects of names
Hello, My Name is Unique by Carlin Flora
Some parents want names for their children that are unique but not too trendy. Other parents seem to love alternative spellings. How important is a name to our self-perception?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
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thordora said...

My "real" name is fairly rare-it became popular for a few years, and is not receeding finally.

Despite my irritation at people who can't spell or pronounce my name properly, I would never trade it. I kept my maiden name-I'm so much a part of my name, for all it's pros and cons. I"m immediately identifiable-I'm never just another Jennifer or Melissa. And I love that.

To a degree I think it's formed who I am, my willingness and want to do something a little different, but I also think that having a "weird" name sets you apart, and sets people up to expect you to do weird things. I'm guilty of making that assumption myself.

When we named our daughters, we were very certain to pick names that were classic as well as different. I wanted them to stand out, but my husband didn't want, and i quote "weird hippy names". Vivian and Rosalyn ended up being perfect for us-names they can grow into, names they'll be taken seriously in. (Plus, they both have 2 middle names just in case they don't like those. :) )

Sober Briquette said...

I was in high school before I encountered another person with my name. It bothers me that people have trouble with the spelling and pronunciation.

I absolutely agree that names convey meanings and mental images. The names I have chosen were selected because of the meaning they have for me, without being too weird. But that's my opinion. I got a lot of grief from family for choosing Fiona and Lorenzo -- too unusual.

I knew a woman who specifically chose unisex names for her daughters because she didn't want them to be discriminated against on applications. And I totally rejected my husbands choice of the name "Samantha" because it sounds to kittenish to me.

Mamma said...

Julie, I love this post. Growing up an "Amy" though with an alternate spelling, I understand what you mean about feeling like your name didn't fit you. It's funny. I definitely don't think of myself as an "Amy" because I am "Amie." As silly as it sounds, those are two different types of people to me.

I don't get this whole alternative spelling/trendy name thing people are doing with their kids. There is a terrific chapter in Freakonomics about baby names. I think you'd really enjoy it.

Gwen said...

I realize that names matter, I guess. I never minded having a different name, even when a boy I liked in middle school called my name "putrid." But honestly, thinking too much about names and how much difference they make .... it seems like a symptom of our overly wordy, underly action-y society. I hope I don't sound be-littling, because that's not my intent. It's just that it seems guaranteed that at least one person will always have a negative connotation for any name you can think of. Can't please all the people all of the time .....

I have learned never to offer my opinion about other parents' name choices: they obviously thought carefully about the name and like it for whatever reason that has nothing to do with me. And it's funny, by the way, because I don't know any "Julies" who like their name. What's up with that?

Professor J said...

I have a pedestrian name, Karen, that was very popular when I was a child. There was always more than one Karen in the class. So I, too, had dreams of changing it when I was a young adult. But I suppose that, over the years, it has become me--or I have become she--or something like that.

Kyla said...

I love, love my name, despite the 24 years of correcting people who say/spell it KAYla. One "A" people, and it is at the end. KY-LA. Four letters. I can spell it for someone, and have them still misspell it and continue calling me Kayla. But I do love my name.

Technically, because I am lazy, I have kept my maiden name. I call myself by my married name, but as the IRS reminds me at tax time each year, it is only an alias until I officially change it.

Anonymous said...

I had a name that felt ridiculous to me and I never liked it. So I changed it. Then several years later, I changed it again.

We probably go through stages and phases with names perhaps. What fits well at one stage of life may not feel right at another stage.

The name I currently use (and changed legally some time back) was given to me for specific reasons and I've grown into it. 'Chani' is just a shortened version of it. Although it's ethnic.. and I'm not that particular ethnicity.. it works for me. It feels right.

Sometimes I think every child should have a naming ceremony when they are old enough to choose for themselves.

slouching mom said...

I'm happy with my own name, because it's plain, and for that less likely to have clear-cut connotations.

And I've given my own sons very plain names, too. While it's true that they will be more likely to run into people who share their names, IMO that's less damaging than having a name that's easily stereotyped.

Julie Pippert said...

I probably should have titled this post Just Another Julie. LOL

I think the thing about my name is that when I was born it was in the top 2 most popular girl names, shortly thereafter Bobby Sherman wrote a dreadful hit song about it, and I always had to use my last name or last name's initial to distinguish me from the swarms of other Julies.

It's an "ee" name and relatively bouncy seeming and all too common...which is probably why I don't like it.

My name also falls into the "popular-fun" category of name connotations.

I think people often feel a vague annoyance with me because I'm not as bubbly and positive as my name implies I ought to a subconscious sense of betrayal.

How dare a JULIE be all serious and intense like a SYLVIA?

I think it's easy to say you are the name and don't overdo it but I have noticed a decided effect of my name. Hence why I believe this and was careful with my kids names. I don't LET it make me, or hold me back or trouble me or be anything noteworthy on a daily basis. But if someone makes me stop and think, I do believe this.

Thordora, love Vivian and Rosalyn.

SB, yes, I agree, and Fiona and Lorenzo aren't that odd...Fiona is rather well-known now, right? I like that name.

I distinguish Amie from Amy too. And alternative names and spellings...I don't know, it seems cute for a baby but how will it go for adults? How will a Coltyn do compared to a John?

Gwen, I think there is a difference between "impression" and "connotation." We'll all have personal connections (connotations) about names and that will be unique to individuals. Connotations are the general idea about ow a name seems, apart from (in addition to) the unique personal connections. KWIM? Just the type of name it is.

A kid said Gwen is putrid? UGH! It's beautiful that name.

And wise words. I never voice an opinion about a parent's name choice for child. I say great.

Oh and I see my comment happened to have addressed your question about "what's up with that." LOL

Prof J, yes, I knew a lot of Karens. Karen (and various spellings of it), Jennifer, Julie, Shannon, Kelly, Kim...I always knew kids with these names.

Kyla, yes, I think you are fortunate in your name: cute for kid, solid for adult, unique but not unusual and lovely.

And wait, you are not named what I think you are...or your hubby isn't named what I think he is? EXCUSE me while I edit my address book...


Chani, is that you? I think we do go through stages. As a teen I wanted something cool and hip and I considered Julien, but then I preferred something more classic so went with Julia (and I am not listing all the rest of the Dream Names I Wish I Had...only the ones playing off my given name). My mom is so hurt I don't like Julie. It is a beautiful name but, err, not me per se. Half the people in the world assume I am Julia anyway (which amuses me greatly) and call me Julia. The majority of people who know me well can't seem to stand calling me Julie and without prompting give me a nickname.

If my husband actually calls me Julie? I know we are in a Dire Situation Indeed.

I think your name ceremony idea is interesting.

Remind it CHAYnee, SHAWnee, chawNEE?

Mary Joan Koch said...

I have been experimenting with my name all my life. I was baptized Mary Joan, but my parents always called me Mary Jo. My mom was Mary; my dad was Joe. All through school and college I preferred to be Mary Joan. But then I reverted to Mary Jo when I started working.

When I got married in 1968, I took my husband's name with some misgivings, fervent feminist that I was. I did like Hawkins better than Koch. In 1987 when I went back to school and work, after 15 years at home, I went back to my maiden name. When I remarried in 2001, I took my husband's name, both because I was madly in love and because Mary Jo Koch, with a history of manic depression, was too well known in my local library system. So most of the time I am Mary Jo Graves.

When I resumed Matriarch after several years of not writing, I decided to use Mary Joan Koch, mostly to protect my family's anonymity.

Mary Joan Koch or Mary Joan Graves is more distinctive than Mary Jo Koch or Graves, as google searches will attest. However, I tend to revert to Mary Joan when I am at the manic end of the spectrum, and my Joan of Arc side is in the ascendancy, so my being Mary Joan makes my family nervous.

I am happy with my daughters' names--Vanessa, Elizabeth, Katherine, and Patricia. We made the mistake of calling Katherine Katie when she was a baby and toddler. Before she was 2, she told me: "It makes me said that you call my Katie when my name is Katherine." And I never called her Katie again.

Julie Pippert said...

SM, I agree, your name is classic (which in my world = beautiful). Actually I like your name. My name is common yet trendy, which isn't the same thing at all as common yet classic. Trendy also means overabundant and likely to bring about fatigue of it. My husband is common yet classic. He has no name hang-ups at all. So I concur: running into people with your name isn't half as damaging as an easily stereotyped name (like I have.)

Succinctly put. I like that.

Julie Pippert said...

Gwen, I meant IMPRESSIONS are how the name seems generally. DUH. That'll teach me to multi-task and reply LOL!

Julie Pippert said...

Mary Joan, that is all so interesting. You feel a distinct pull to a variation of your name depending upon where you are in's really clear when you put it that way. I'm so glad you shared that. I've tended to consider more the variation others use of my name to reflect how they feel about me; I've not considered *as much* my own variations depending upon how I think of myself.

Your girls have gorgeous names.

I also do not abbreviate or nickname my children (but they do have "pet" names like Love and Sweet abundance), and am Not Very Nice when people take Persistence's name and abbreviate it. The most common abbreviation is Totally Unacceptable to me. And she'll correct people, too, who nickname her. At two.

So it struck me funny your daughter did that at about the same age!!

Mary Joan said...


My taste in names didn't change much. I dithered between Elizabeth and Patricia as confirmation names. Elizabeth is named after Elizabeth Bennet; she is Elizabeth to her family and Lizzy to her friends. She is such a Lizzy.

Vanessa is named after a character in a romantic suspense novel that was next to the toilet in my mother's bathroom. When I suggested it, as one of many, her dad fell in love with it. I wasn't sure; Vanessa seemed the name of a lovely woman, not a possibly funny-looking baby. One of the first things I said after she was born was, "yes, she is a Vanessa."

Katherine was absolutely right about not being a Katie. She usually blogs under the name Katherine--do a search for Katherine and "Obsidian Wings." Katie would not have had enough gravitas.

Two of my daughters have taken their husband's names; Katherine didn't. She observes that in our family, the most Waspish name trumps:)

Suki said...

That's an interesting post! Yes, I understand it quite a bit. I tend to picture people as soon as I hear their names - it comes partly from the sound of the name, partly from knowing people with the same name or similar names, and other jumbly associations.

My name is Sukhaloka. It means "the light of happiness" in Sanskrit. I think the sobriety that comes with the LONG name, as well as the literal translation of "light" and "happiness" suit me perfectly. My boyfriend's first name means "artistic" and his surname means "belief" - again, it suits him perfectly.
I use my full name freely, just as I expose my happy, yet reflective side easily and to everyone. He guards his full name carefully, as it is very precious and close to him. I have just the one nickname - Suki - and that represents how I look. Short, sweet and (deceptively) harmless. He has quite a few nicknames, used in different circles and embodying different traits.

I guess we both have perfect names, and have given ourselves perfect nicknames.
Sometimes, though, I feel like my name shapes me. I have an instinctive feeling that I am a source of light and hope around me. Who knows - does one part of it stem from my name, apart from my self-belief?

Your post got me thinking. Thank you!

Lawyer Mama said...

Dude, my name is Stephanie. It is such a cheerleader name. OK, I was a cheerleader but I'm NOT a cheerleader type person. I was once complaining about my name to a fellow attorney and friend (named Tiffany) that parents should be banned from giving their daughters names that end in the EEE sound if they want them to have serious careers.

A sorority sister from college (gosh, this is starting to sound worse, isn't it?) is also named Tiffany. She works in sports broadcasting and when she was hired as a sideline reporter by FOX 6 or 7 years ago, they made her change her name to Jill. They said Tiffany wasn't serious enough. Apparently her mom was also very upset.

My last name is impossible to pronounce but I love it. I'm hyphenated because, dude, my husband's last name is the Smith of Scandinavians. If I were made to go through life at Stephanie Nelson I might bore myself to death. But I usually just tell people Nelson when I'm dealing with anything for the boys. It's easier.

dharmamama said...

I still don't feel like my name, Caren. (And there were tons of other Karens/Carens/Karins in my class) I just don't know - I look in the mirror and think - Caren? But I've been Caren for 42 years, so I guess it's me. Except for a short period in college when my nickname was actually Sex Goddess (a joke, as I was shy and awkward still), and friends at that time called me SG. I definitely don't feel like a sex goddess now. lol

I named my oldest son based on his middle name, Maxfield. I wanted to call him Max, a name I just love. As soon as he was five, he insisted on being called his first name, Evan. (I miss Max) But as he's grown, I think, yeah - he's more an Evan than a Max. But what does that even mean?

Your post didn't mention all those serial killers and murderers with the middle name Wayne. (sorry, any Waynes out there! I'm sure you're great!) Is there meaning in names?

flutter said...

I really can't wait to shed my maiden name. I have considered, many times taking my grandfather's name until I get married.

When I do marry, my name will be very simple, classic and strong. It will shed my father's mark on me and in a small way will usher my life as my own person.

thailandchani said...

The prettiest variation I've ever heard of Julie is "Julin". How she came up with it is interesting, too. She wanted something a bit more unusual and changed to Julin. I like how it sounds, how it's spelled, etc.

My name at birth was very ordinary and long. It never seemed right and when someone would call me that, it seemed they were talking to someone else.

I changed it to "Kristine" when I was in my early 20s.. and that didn't seem to fit either. I didn't like being called "Kris".

Then I changed to my middle name and it was a bit too Mouseketeers for me. (Annette)

I got rid of that.

Then I chose something I felt fairly good about and liked for a long time.

Then the Thai conversion came and I was given my Thai name. 'Chani' is a nickname for that.

Long, boring history, eh?

I still have my ex-husband's last name because the idea of going back to my birth name makes me cringe.

Interesting discussion. :)

thailandchani said...

Missed your question. Oops.

It is pronounced Chah-nee. It is short for "Chanakarn" which is pronounced "Chah-na-kahn". It means... get ready to laugh, I wouldn't blame you... "darling of all the people".

Thai names are chosen by the day of the week one is born and an astrological reading by a monk. I know I shouldn't have laughed when it was given to me. It's a rather solemn occasion and all, but "darling of all the people" made me laugh my head off. I'm really a rather quiet, intense and serious person and hardly "darling". :)


Suz said...

I really love this post as I think that names are important as well. Mine was also very popular and, as an effect of that popularity, you had to either select some permutation of the name or be known as first name, last initial.


As a result, I tried to name at least one of my sons an unusual name. My husband and I disagreed profoundly on little boy names. He was more than happy to let me have the girls names (Lillian & Eleanor), but we didn't have girls. So, one boy got a fairly popular frat-boy type name and the other got my choice. And then, well, Julia Roberts came along and hoisted the popularity of Henry, so you never can tell.

dawn224 said...

I think names are HUGE. Mine is .. eh. It improved with marriage from a last name that was cutesy with my first name to a more sensible sounding one. When choosing names for the baby I just wanted something he could adjust - I like the idea of having formal and informal names, so he has the flexibility of Alexander, Alex or AJ now.

Yolanda said...

This subject is a precious one for me. I'm a regular reader of the Baby Name Wizard blog. The linguist and name fashionistas on that site are a rare combination, indeed. We agonized over our daughter's name so much, that she didn't actually have one until she was four days old (We had a short list, but needed to see her before we picked, and I was separated from her for a couple of days postpartum).

Anyway, after a year of studying the writing on that site, I've come to understand that parents today really think of their child's name in terms of branding, where as the previous generations relied primarily on tradition. That drive toward branding causes many parents to seek out unique, no-google-hits-for-this names; while other parents gravitate toward resume names (does this sound like a lawyer? A professor?).

But you are absolutely right in your suggestion that names create an impression on others who hear them. Research supports that if one has an obvious ethnic name (i.e. a name not generally associated with being white), he/she will be less likely to be called in for interview when submitting a resume.

Similarly, if one has a popular name from a certain decade, particularly one that has fallen out of favor to modern taste, then that name immediately identifies the age of that person. George may easily be Caden's grandfather, but he is unlikely to be his classmate. Similarly, Kimberly is more likely to be able sing along to Duran Duran songs than Madison (or Helen, for that matter).

Unfortunately, I think that there is a trend to give children names that work great on children, but will have hard transitions into adulthood. It's difficult to picture a 40-year-old Cody conducting a business meeting, it's just too precious and cute for an adult man (in my opinion). Similarly, current popular names like Savannah and Destiny are adorable for little girls. These names, however, do have a precious quality that may make it hard for people to "take them seriously" as adults. It's the same problem that many Kelly's, Katie's and
Wendy's face.

melissa said...

My last name is VERY German, so we needed to come up with simple first names so that the kids weren't having to spell everything all the time.

I was sad to give up my last name when I got married. I am an only child, and my Dad was an only child, so that does it for the name. I compromised by making it my middle name and giving it to the guys as their middle name. Which seemed ok, but gave them the same initials, which can be a little confusing at times...

Bon said...

loved this, as i'm an inveterate name nerd. probably as a result of being a Bonnie - which i like about as much as you like Julie. maybe less...though Bon i am quite fond of.

Aliki2006 said...

Oh, I loved this post. It reminds me of the fact that I always wanted to change my name to the Greek version of it--Aliki, but never did. I came so close to reinventing myself when I started graduate school that first time but then I chickened out. I sometimes wonder if it would have made a difference--changing my name.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Great post! So much to say on this... First, I liked my maiden name, but changed it for the whole solidarity, traditional reasons. But my married name implies a certain religious affiliation which sometimes annoys me.

I thought way long and hard about my children's names and am very happy with them. Solid. Clearly male/female. Classic not trendy. Both have meaning to us as well.

I think I am a big-time name snob, too. Not so much with adult names, but with the parents of kids named intentionally made up or ridiculously trendy things. I question the parent's judgment. Don't they realize what they are putting their child through?

Oh and the idea that kids with names that start with A or B get better grades than kids with names that start with F? That is so crazy I just don't even know what to say. Are they only talking about first names or last names, too? B/c I could see how having a last name at the beginning of the alphabet might be advantageous, sit up front, get called on first, etc.

Mary G said...

My name really is Mary. It was my grandmother's name. And her grandmother's. When I got married, you had to take your husband's name or go through a huge paperwork hassle to keep your own.
I have now been Mary G a lot longer than I was Mary Holden. But I still think of myself as the latter, rather than the former. The only time it really got to me was at my university graduation where, because I was married, I could not use 'my own' name but had to go with my legal one.

Both of my daughters have 'Y' ending names/nicknames. I admit I don't think of that type of name as unserious; after all, Mary is a 'Y' ending name.

Julie, this is just a super post. I had never thought of some of the points you and your commenters have made. Fascinating, absolutely.

painted maypole said...

interesting post. i was just thinking about names because my husband and his family all insist on calling his sister the nickname she grew up with (a derivation of her name) while she prefers a completely different pronunciation of her given name than ever intended. She allows all of us to call her by her youthful name, but never refers to herself as such... leading to interesting stumblings in phone messages and letter signings. Except for things to my daughter, in which she always signs "aunt _______" (the name the whole family calls her). Seems she has a soft spot for her only niece. said...

Interesting thoughts. I've had a difficult spelling first name since I was born and I hate it. A very unusual name in Sweden where I am born. I've always been forced to spell it and always did stand out from the mass. I'm so tired of it.

I think the person that's going to live with the name owns it. Parents is just too demanding sometimes. It's our lives that is touched. I haven't changed mine either, but oooh, so tempted I've been!

I always were glad that my last name were so easy. Now I'm married with a very unusual last name. Which means that now I have both unusual and as a fact, I think that I'm the only one in the whole world with this name combination....

I feel like I'm just too easy to find. Not that I have anything to hide or so, but still, it doesn't feel good.

I always beg parents to give their babies common names that are easy to spell. It has been a hell with all the spelling, very tiresome.

I came here because of your comment on Suburban Oblivion about the Blogger commenting subject. I wonder how you do that, leaving a href link in the nickname? I can't get it to work. I've been trying to write it exactly like a normal a href should look and even without the quotes, no luck.

I don't link the idea of leaving it in the comment body text either. To much writing.

jeanie said...

The "jeanie" comes from both sides of my family, and every branch of my family tree has a jean in there.

My given name was quite unusual for its day - I didn't meet any until high school - she was the same last initial, as vain and as short-sighted as I so neither of us answered to our name in case we were "dags" and answered to the wrong group of friends.

Today, it has been on the top 10 girls names for the last dozen years - it stood me in good stead, all that ignoring my own name!

I do know so many Julies and Tanyas and Lisas and Kims of my era. There are a vast array of types for each name, but the stereotype would be a nightmare.

But then, one of my best mates is a Julie and has a Psychology Doctorate, and one of my clients is a Julie and runs a clothing empire - maybe Julies are overachievers because of the name!

Family Adventure said...

This is an excellent post, Julie. You've captures people's imagination, clearly.

My SIL's name is Juliet. She likes it -- and her husband refers to her as Jewels. I always thought it was Jules, until she corrected me (slightly miffed, I believe).

I don't mind my own name. It's easy to spell, easy to pronounce (except in France, but I love how the French slaughter I'm good :)).


atypical said...

I hated my name as a kid. I grew used to it as a teen. I love it now. Of course, I was named after a horse jockey my dad used to bet on.

I did change my name when I got married, but since I have always had to spell my first, middle, and last names (even though my maiden name was common, it was common with three different spelling possibilities), and I still have to spell everything now, I haven't noticed much of a difference.

When naming our children, we used several criteria. I wanted strong names. We wanted them to mean something. We wanted to use middle names that were first names for family members - past or present. We also wanted names which were familiar yet not overused (unfortunately, a few of them ended up with slightly more common names considering the fact that we ended up naming six boys).

We do NOT tend to abbreviate their names at all (except occasionally the youngest two in order to establish the preferred abbreviation LOL). They WILL correct strangers for calling them something other than their given names. I find this very funny since I was always so shy, I let people call me the wrong thing regularly.

BTW, I've only known strong, dedicated, and intelligent Julies as well.

Magpie said...

My first name is not terribly common, my last name is a pain in the ass (because it's commonly mispronounced), but it's my name and I'd have never considered changing it. Sometimes I wonder what it'll be like having my first name as an 80-year-old, because it sometimes seems like a young person's name. But I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

And my daughter? Has my last name. Because we agreed before we got married that girls would have my last name and boys would have his.

Her first name is also less than common - it's from Shakespeare. And, it doesn't lend itself to nicknames.

Mad Hatter said...

I'm surprised that when you talked about the stack of resume's assumptions about race, ethnicity and class didn't rise to the surface.

I love my daughter's name but it may be a trial to her. It's her last name I am more worried about. I kept my surname but she carries my husband's surname which is German and a close variation of Frankenstein. No matter what given name we chose, that surname will always be a bigger concern to her.

TwoSquareMeals said...

Coming from this Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, completely non-athletic, English major and teacher nerd with a cheerleader name, you can overcome your name.

But I have always hated mine and wanted to change it. I would never do it because it would hurt my mom's feelings. To be fair, my name was not popular when I was born, and she just thought it was pretty and feminine. It became a cheerleader name later on.

I think Chani's idea of name ceremonies is fascinating. Of course, what do you call the children until then? And what age can you count on children choosing good names? My sister-in-law wanted to name her next sibling "Colors Pretty" if it was a girl. Thank goodness he was a boy!

Our boys both have a Biblical first name and a literary middle name. We tried to choose strong names of people with lives worth emulating. I think when you choose names that a lot of people know from a common text, it prevents some of the negative connotations. But it is true that someone is always going to have a bad connotation with every name; we can't avoid it entirely.

Interesting post and comments!

Mary Alice said...

This was a great post. I wrote one on names recently too. Must have been something in the air.

I think names are definitely part of the stereotyping people naturally make when meeting for the first time. We naturally make assumptions about people as a way to organize new information in our brains. We all have initial impressions of people, whether accurate or not is questionable, but we all do it and the name of the person certainly creates another way for people to quickly "type" their new acquaintance.

Amy said...

I have never really given any thought to my name, that is until today. However my sister, vice president of a major bank, has. She alway toyed with hers. Sometimes it was her first name, M'linda, or Linda, sometimes her middle name Kathleen, Kathy, or now Kat. Her success seemed to grow as she used the name Kat. I personally hate that name for her, but in the end it is her choice; obviously a good one in retrospect.
I was saddled with a trendy three letter name. Today, Tuesday, I am now wondering if this what has brought me to where i am today? I am married to the most amazing man and we have two lovely children, boy and girl. However, did my name put me married to a minister? I look around at the other ministers wifes and see that they too have "cheerleader names". I am not unhappy, just kidda wondering... how does our name affect us? It makes me wonder what is in store for our children?
Our son has a strong name, I have no doubt he will be a lawyer, doctor, politician, or preacher. First because every male in our family is one of the above, and second because his personality is that of all the above. I never thought of this until today.
My daughter was given a beautiful name from the earlier part of the twentieth century. Looking at it when we gave it to her I saw beauty, honesty, grace, elegance. All things we want in a daughter. I still love her name and hope as she grows she to will continue to love it. Has it kept her from a future of success? I doubt it, if it does she can always shorten it to the STRONGER version.
I do believe that success is not measured by our names, but by who we prove ourselves to be through life. As we change and are molded with our experiences so is the name we have been saddled with. I know over the course of my life my name has had many reactions, however, today when it is mentioned it does bring a smile to others faces.

Angela said...

Very interesting topic. I didn't care for my name as a child and really wanted to be Marsha as in Marcia Brady, but didn't know how to spell it at the time. As an adult it is fine with me. We agonized over our kids' names Adam and Dova and this thought will definitely spawn a blog post soon!

Michele said...

I Love the Hello my name is unique article. When I was pregnant, my husband really wanted to name our daughter Zoe. My fear was that the name was too young sounding and would not carry well for an adult. But now that she is 18 months old, she is such a Zoe and I can't imagine her with any other name. I think most times, people just grow into the names they are given.

Minnesota Mom said...

Just found your blog, and as "just another Julie", I had to comment. My "real" name is Julia, but I've always been called Julie. Tried to change to Julia in 7th grade - but that was when the TV show Julia was on, so there was a lot of teasing and it didn't stick. Lots more teasing when that Bobby Sherman song came out (
I was in high school). Sometimes now I do wish I was Julia, but it just seems too much trouble to change.

I have always had people shorten it to what I always hear as Jules - which I really dislike (even though I did have a friend who spelled it Jewels, which is much better). I do not understand how people who are virtual strangers to me feel free to shorten my name.

I gave my daughter a unique name, and my son a common one. I think it is harder on boys to have unusual names - and anyway, my husband only liked two boy names, and both were quite common. I did intend to call him by his middle name - but somehow, after he was born I couldn't imagine using a name other than his first name. He actually seldom had a classmate with the same name, even though it was the most popular boy's name the year he was born.

I remember reading an article about the meaning of names when I was pregnant with my daughter, and asking my husband what the name we intended to use made him think of. Unfortunately, it reminded him of a technical acronym that did NOT have good connotations. It was the name we had intended to use had our son been a girl, so I was very glad we didn't already have a child with that name. I won't mention it here so as not to ruin the name (which I think is lovely) for anyone else.

I have really enjoyed reading your posts and will definitely be visiting again...