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This Is Why Naming Your Baby Is the Hardest Thing in the World

Photograph by Twenty20

One of the first major decisions every parent makes is choosing their bundle of joy’s name. You know, the name they're going to have forever. No pressure, right?

Names convey so much in our society; we use them to honor family members, historical figures or celebrities, as well as evoke our values and interests. Names also carry the weight of our culture, region and socio-economic status. While many of us can easily scoff at celebrities giving their children “weird” names, what kind of an impact can a name have on the life of the average baby? It turns out it's pretty significant.

Baby’s Future Job

Whatever the reason, certain names seem to lend themselves to a specific type of job. The networking site LinkedIn took a look at some of their naming data, and revealed some surprising results. For example, people with four-letter names are successful in sales—perhaps because their names are short and easy to remember. “May I speak to Chad in sales, please?”

Engineers tend to have six letter names, and restauranteurs seven or more letters. Some jobs also seem to have common names. Billy is the top name for those connected with law enforcement, Emma leads the HR lists and Ryan is the name held by the most athletes. Who knew?

A German study shows that people with names that have connotations with nobility, such as King or Prince, hold more managerial positions within companies. This can work for a first or a last name.

It’s not a truth that many of us want to face, but study after study has shown that, yes, we do judge books by their covers.

Middle Initial Matters

Of course, when it comes to choosing names, we all know that parents should avoid an unfortunate spelling of initials. For example, Simon Uriah Kelley's initials would be S.U.K. Definitely a no-go! However, this may be more important than just running the risk of ruining monogrammed towels for life. A psychological research study out of the University of Southhampton in the U.K. notes that people tend to think more highly of individuals who give professional names that include a middle initial. The study found that adding a middle initial to a writer’s name increased the perception of their writing ability, as well as raising the name holder’s perceived intelligence and status.

Plain Old Discrimination

Many of us probably laughed at the scene in the movie "Ted" where Mark Wahlberg’s character was trying to guess a girl’s name based on his friend Ted’s evaluation that it was a “white trash name.” In reality, however, discrimination based on name connotation with class and race is a very real thing. One aspect of this bias is based on pronunciation — a concept that Key and Peele satirized in their famous substitute teacher sketch.

According to a study conducted in conjunction between the University of Melbourne, Australia, the University of Leuven, Belgium, and New York University, people simply favor names they can pronounce over names they can’t. This means that children with names that are hard to pronounce by the boss may be passed over for hiring or promotion. It’s not a truth that many of us want to face, but study after study has shown that, yes, we do judge books by their covers.

So, what's in a name? Everything, apparently.

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