Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happiness and names

A friend of mine recently posed a question about how she is perceived and how closely it is tied to her name.

The result was, after some deliberation, that she changed her name to one that she thought others would relate to as a stronger name and would make her feel more comfortable in the world. Of course part of the problem is that, while this works well for the new people you meet, it doesn't really work for all of the people who know you by the name that you met them with.... in fact it could have opposite effect.

I knew a Geraldine back when we lived in South Africa. Her father wanted a son and Gerald would be his name... so as she grew she understandably came to hate the name and eventually changed to it a more neutral one. She moved to another country and has a new network of friends who know her by the new name. We, of course, still call her Geraldine because that is how we knew her. The name was formed in our minds by combining everything we experienced with and about her over the time we got to know her. The name morphed with our experience of her.

I admit that my take on this is that you get to own the name that you are given. It can be tough to go through life with a name like Emerentia (for example) but you roll with it - become Emma or Em or Renti. In my case Timothy became Timmy (I know a bunch of dogs called Timmy) and I chose to be Tim when I left for the Army.

Perhaps the point is that you do get to change your name - most people do it a little by adopting or being given a nickname, or by abbreviation. It is rare, but this can happen in your adult life too.

So today a colleague gave me this article from the UK Daily mail (actually an abreviation of this article appeared in the Boston Metro so it was probably put out on the wire.

A psychologist (Dr David Holmes of Manchester in the UK) did a study of peoples names and personalities and made a judgment on how happy they were. His contention is that people's names are like product brands - the name gets associated with how others have carried it and with what is generally associated with that name and this rubs off on people who are given the name.

So people with the name Judy have it lucky while if your name is Harriet you are likely to be at somewhat of a disadvantage. I suppose this is a pretty basic assumption... people take stage names if theirs is not interesting enough. David Bowie was David Jones and Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan... in fact the list of actors and their real names makes quite an interesting read.

At the bottom of the story was the list of names that are the least happy.
Charlotte, Tina or Tara, Andrew, Edward, Tim or Owen...

I guess I am unhappy.

I loved some of the comments at the bottom of the story though:
What absolute rubbish, I know someone called Judy, 3 times married, 3 times divorced, and the most miserable person I know despite having plenty money.

What a load of utter rubbish!! Yet another exercise in job justification!

1 comment:

  1. I agree, as you get to know a person, that person's characteristics start sticking to their name, but I have often found that certain people with the same names do have shared characteristics, for instance, every Tim I have ever known, has very good artistic talent - one is an actor/songwriter, another is an architect and then there is you!