5 Ways Your Parents Changed Your Life When They Named You
To paraphrase Shakespeare: Names don't mean shit. What matters is how you are inside, not the arbitrary sequence of words that your parents chose before they even met you. Right? Sorry, Buck Fuckley Jr., your name can indeed shape who you are in shocking ways. Such as ...
Where Your Name Sits In The Alphabet Can Affect Your Success In Life
Believe it or not, our entire society is fixed to accommodate one particularly privileged group. Can you tell what these powerful people have in common?
Besides secretly not wearing pants in these photos.
That's right: They all have surnames starting with letters early in the alphabet ... and that might not be a coincidence. It makes sense when you think about it. It all starts in school: Not all teachers organize their students alphabetically, but many do. This means that little Timmy Aalders will probably get more attention from teachers than little Timmy Zywiec -- children with names that show up later in the alphabet often have to stand at the end of the line, sit in the back of the classroom, and work from the crappy textbooks left after everyone else chose first.
The seating part is particularly important, since multiple studies back up the claim that the closer you sit to the front of the classroom, the better you perform in class -- and that's regardless of whether that front-row seat was assigned to you or you chose it yourself (nerd). If you're in the back of the class, you'll be asked to participate less often, and the average 10-year-old won't exactly go out of his or her way to correct that.
Which leaves more time for Aerodynamics 101.
However, things like that can mark you for life: A study determined that the later your surname shows up in the alphabet, the quicker you'll be to jump on acquisition opportunities as an adult. Why? Because of all that time you spent stuck at the end of the line as a kid, waiting for your turn. There's still a part of you thinking, "Goddammit, if the kid in front of me gets the last chocolate milk again I'm gonna Koosh him right in the eyeball."
This can translate to the professional world too. People listed first in research papers always seem to get more credit, and guess how that order is usually decided? Alphabetically lucky academics are also much more likely to get tenure, fellowships, and awards, and that's accounting for factors like "country of origin, ethnicity, religion, or departmental fixed effects" (we're assuming that last one means "bribes").
Even Benjamins beat out Grants, Jacksons, Lincolns, and Washingtons (in that order).
And that's why only six U.S. presidents in the last century have had surnames in the second half of the alphabet. That, or people just vote for whoever is at the top of the ballot. Either way, you're fucked, little Timmy Zywiec.
Traditional Names Are More Liberal; Wacky Names Are More Conservative
Popular wisdom says that liberals tend to be more creative and free-spirited than those uptight conservatives, so you'd think that would translate into how people name their babies -- but, actually, it's the exact opposite. Alabama, the reddest of states, has names like "Serenity," "Londyn," and "Jordyn" in its top 50 girl names of 2014, while New York's same list reads more like the cast of a Jane Austen novel. Interestingly, "Brooklyn" doesn't even show up in New York's top 100, but it's 10th in Alabama.
"During our next legislative session, we're voting to change our spelling to 'Aluhbyama.'"
According to Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabyNameWizard.com, this happens because mothers in more conservative states tend to have children earlier than those in more liberal states, and younger women are more likely to choose novel names. Which makes sense: naming your kid after a baby in 16 And Pregnant sounds like a good idea only if you're, well, 16 and pregnant.
Combine this with the fact that about 70 percent of teens keep themselves aligned with their parents politically, and this means you can probably guess someone's political leanings from how their parents decided to spell "Jessyka."
Meet Alexander (left) and Alegzandur (right).
Speaking of which, West Coast parents are also much more likely than East Coast parents to spell their child's name in an unconventional manner. It's not that West Coast people can't spell -- it's that their frontier spirit gives them, according to University of Michigan's Michael Varnum, "individualistic values, such as uniqueness and self-reliance" (which also holds true in Canada). In other words, Mars colony babies are gonna have reeeaaal stupid names.
We Like People Who Share Our Initials Best
Good lord, you're an arrogant bastard. Don't worry; we all are. Researchers have found that it's easier for people to bond with others who share the first letter of their given name and/or surname, to the point that they're actually more productive when partnered with a name-buddy. When the researchers divided undergraduate students to work on a group project, 70 percent of the teams whose members shared an initial completed it. On the other hand, only 41 percent of the teams without a similar initial finished the project, which might explain why no one likes that Xavier guy at your office. That, and his stupid scarves. It's July, Xavier -- come on, man.
"It's very important to me that my neck be exactly 5 degrees warmer than the rest of my body."
But this also applies to places outside the workplace ... like, say, the bedroom. Other studies have determined that "people are disproportionately likely to marry others whose first or last names resemble their own." Yes, even in states where it's not cool to marry your cousins. We'll wait here while you go check how many of your friends on Facebook share at least one initial with their significant other, and judge them accordingly.
Name similarity seems like such a random thing to base relationships on, but it fits perfectly well with what science has known for a long time: We're a bunch of self-centered jerks. As we've covered before, we're programmed to like ourselves, which leads us to favor products and even professions with names that share our own initials. Maybe that's why our gay friend Dr. Richard likes Doritos so much.
Having A Meaningful Name Makes People Think You're "Difficult"
Most of us will go our entire lives without knowing where the hell our name came from or what it originally meant. Unless, of course, you believe those Facebook "name origin" quizzes, in which case everyone's name means "brave knight" or "sensual goddess."
Whoa, mom wasn't lying.
So when you grow up with a name that has a very clear meaning (like River, Daisy, or Handgrenade), that means you're one of the lucky ones, right? Nope, not really. In fact, most people will think you're a difficult little shithead right off the jump.
Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA psychology professor, created a test to determine how people's names are perceived on different fronts -- he established, for example, that people with traditional names are thought of as more successful, popular, and kind than those with "alternative" names. We at Cracked strongly disagree with some of his findings, though ...
Chad probably rigged this study, that son of a bitch.
A separate study wanted to determine what assumptions a preschool teacher would make about a child with a literal name, and the general opinion seems to be "fuck this kid." They were rated as having more difficult temperament, while kids with non-literal names were seen as more ethical and caring -- and remember, the teachers were talking about kids they hadn't even met yet. Despite that, their assumptions about the children directly affected the quality of their interaction in the classroom.
"Handgrenade, I swear to God if you don't put your fucking hand down ..."
We should note that this study applies only to English names, and different countries have different ways to react to literal names. For instance, German researchers found that people with noble sounding names, like Kaiser ("emperor"), Konig ("king"), and Furst ("prince"), were more likely to be managers, compared to people with names like Koch ("cook"), Bauer ("farmer"), and Becker/Backer ("baker").
The curious thing is that Germans with noble names fared better than those with names not related to social roles, too. In summation, don't fuck with baby Handgrenade.
Male CEOs Use Shortened Names; Female CEOs Use Full Names
In movies, whenever the action cuts away to a country club or a private school, it's all "Christopher" this and "Benjamin" that and "Lord Fartingsworth, you're making a scene." We generally tend to associate longer names with prestige and wealth, is what we're saying. But in truth, a CEO is more likely to be called something snappy like "Chris" or "Ben" or just "Farty."
Which is actually the name for the next Steve Jobs biopic.
We've mentioned before that having a short name can make you rich, and apparently male CEOs have taken that and run with it. According to data gathered by that email spam company that doubles as a business social network, LinkedIn, male CEOs tend to use shortened versions of their names. Name expert Dr. Frank Nuessel thinks they do that to seem friendlier and more open to their employees and thus throw off any suspicions that they might be a space lizard posing in the shape of a man. Which Cracked's CEO definitely isn't, and you should never look into the matter.
Consequently, eight out of the 10 most common names for male CEOs in the U.S. have five letters or fewer. But, wait, what about women? In their case, the opposite happens:
Yeah, female CEOs tend to use their full names -- according to Nuessel, probably to seem more professional. Because apparently "I worked my way up to head of a company" just doesn't seem so impressive if it's coming from someone called "Deb."
How else are your parents screwing you up? Well, if you played sports in your formative years and are scraping roadkill for a living now, blame your folks. And if they never argued in front of you, you've also probably got issues. Learn more in 7 Things 'Good Parents' Do (That Screw Up Kids For Life) and 6 Hallmarks Of Disastrous Parenting (Confirmed By Science).
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