What’s in a name?

Posted by on July 20, 2010

I feel I must begin this post by clarifying a couple of things. No, I don’t have a best mate called Tracey, and no, I’ve never in my life danced around my handbag in white stilettos in a nightclub. OK, glad we got that cleared up.

Non-native English speakers may be wondering what on earth I’m going on about, but the rest of you out there probably know exactly what I mean – the stereotypes that are associated with names.

As soon as someone hears your name, a whole slew of adjectives come to mind, some of them justified, some of them not. Introduce yourself as ‘Tristan’ or ‘Sebastian’ and people immediately think ‘wealthy’ and ‘privileged’, regardless of whether there’s anything to support that view. Tell someone your name’s ‘Kylie’, though, and they immediately think ‘working class’, simply because of the association with popular culture. ‘Sharon’, meanwhile, draws pictures of ‘party girl’ and ‘probably not that bright’ (much to my chagrin).

Sometimes these stereotypes can be simply amusing, other times downright misleading and annoying (consider the ‘not that bright’ one when you’re fresh out of college and trying to break into your chosen career!). Being named ‘India’ might mean your parents loved to travel, or even that you were conceived in India – it makes you sound exotic and perhaps a bit ‘hippyish’ – but if people automatically relate to you in that way, you could wind up feeling that no-one’s taking you seriously. (Even worse, if you’re called ‘Sky’ or ‘Storm’!) And just because your name’s ‘Kevin’ doesn’t mean you actually have to drive a Ford Escort with your name emblazoned across the top of the windscreen. How seriously is the salesman in the Ferrari dealership going to take you, once he finds out your name? All those zeros in your bank balance suddenly won’t matter a jot.

So, what words or stereotypes are attached to your name, and what’s the worst one you’ve ever been faced with (or, indeed, the funniest)? And how have you fought back against them? Years ago, a friend causally mentioned to me that I was ‘the most unSharon-like Sharon’ he’d ever met, so I decided the best way to beat the stereotype was to turn it on its head and just be as unSharonish as possible. It seems to have worked out OK – no-one’s ever that surprised at my dislike of nightclubs anyway!

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Comments (6)
  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Macmillan Dictionary, ThijssenTranslations. ThijssenTranslations said: What’s in a name? http://bit.ly/90Uvt3 […]

    Posted by Tweets that mention What’s in a name? | Macmillan -- Topsy.com on 20th July, 2010
  • A colleague’s daughter took him clothes shopping (doubtless hoping to inject some modernity into his wardrobe). He pointed out a raincoat he liked & daughter said “Oh Dad, you’d look a right Steve in that!”

    Fortunately, I’ve never heard the expression before or since.

    Posted by Steve Bell on 20th July, 2010
  • Interesting! I’ve never heard that one before either – I wonder what it was meant to signify…?

    Posted by Sharon Creese on 21st July, 2010
  • It sounds fun. Naming is really important beacuse it could be my first immpreesion to others.

    Posted by Alex Seo on 21st July, 2010
  • I’m form Argentina, and my second mane is Lucrecia, not a common name around here, when I was a child is sounded “heavy” on my…later on the first comment I get is..uh! Borgia! we must be careful..!

    Posted by Adriana on 24th July, 2010
  • My name should be spelt Chandrasegaran, unfortunately, it was misspelt by the person at the the registeration office. Something funny happened to my name when I staying at a college in England. All my other follow students from Malaysia were of Chinese origin. Once I got a letter from college bursar and my name was split into three. Sand Rasa Gran. He must have thought why has this Malaysian joined his name when all the others had three seperate names.

    Posted by Sandrasagran Ayavoo on 31st July, 2010
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