19 Feb 2014

O na na, what's my name?

Are parents limiting their children by the choices they make? It all starts with a simple thing like the choice of first names. Although many parents would object to this fact saying that finding the perfect name for their child is demanding and anything but simple.Does the name suit the family name and is there a meaning behind it? Should it be based on a historic individual or whoever is trendy at the moment? Will the child like and grow into the name? Is it easy to pronounce and most importantly would it shape the child in a positive way.

With all the above put into consideration, how then does it happen that kids are given names like Rio, Ebony or Darnell. Nothing against these names per se. But what weight do they carry in comparison to the Elizabeth's and Richard's of this world.

A behavioural forum on the Times Educational Supplement website revealed what teachers’ first thoughts about a child's possible character were, based on their names. For one moment, let us put aside the fact this is inappropriate behaviour from the teachers' part. The consensus of this forum was alarming. Jordans were described as “a really psychotic kid” and Ashleys were labelled “worse than evil”.

Moving further a few years and adults in the job market face similar situations. A study carried out by Bentley Coffey and Patrick Mc Laughli concluded that female lawyers with masculine or unisex names such as Kerry and Jody were more likely to become judges than their female counterparts with exclusively feminine names like Hazel or Laurie. This research led to the coining of the Portia Hypothesis, after Shakespeare's female character in "The Merchant of Venice" who disguises herself as a man, so she can have a hearing in a male dominated court. 

A name is something that identifies a person, an action or a concept. Just as swift sounds as fast as the speed it describes or north means up and south down, putting a label to something defines it in the hearers subconscious and creates an image in their minds.

A name if chosen right can lift us above the rest. In most cases a first name remains with us from birth till our passing. Some names are imbedded in history and have their own memory. The Zeitgeist or the emotional status of the parents at the birth of a child might influence what name they chose for their new born. Whatever the preference, consideration must be given to the fact that the outside world judges us on a lot of things, one of which includes a name. Of course we cannot always avoid nor control judgment from peers, teachers or employers. However name-picking is one thing parents have full control over and need to exert this control in a responsible, selfless and mature manner, so as not to convey a multitude of unintended information. Always keeping in mind it is the child that has to go through life with the name, not the parent.

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