Names and Stereotypes
One thing that you have absolutely no control over when choosing a name for your baby is the associations that other people will have with it. Think about that bratty kid in your third-grade class named Henry who teased you relentlessly. Be honest: today, whenever you meet someone with the same name as a former tormentor, isn't there even the tiniest assumption that this new person has the same characteristics of the boy or girl who bugged you back then?
Similarly, some of the associations that people have with celebrity names can be just as damning — or complimentary, depending upon the name. In the late 1970s, many parents rushed to name their daughters Farrah. When you meet one of these young women today named Farrah, what's the first thing you think of?
And the nature-oriented names that hippie parents christened their kids with back in the 1960s through the mid-1970s today stand out. You may meet thirty-somethings named Cinnamon and Charity. Of course, you won't want to make a big deal out of their names, since they probably got this treatment all the time, but it will be the name itself that will initially corner your thoughts, and not the person behind the name. Of course, after you get to know the person a bit, the initial surprise about the person's name tends to fade into the background. But keep in mind that some people are never able to get past that name, and therefore make instant assumptions about a person.
But then again, a name doesn't have to belong to a celebrity or serve as a barometer of the social times to provide people with an image of the person behind the name. Some names just have a certain sound to them that helps paint a picture in our minds. Just try to imagine the different physical characteristics you would expect the following names to embody: Bertha, Wilbur, or Gladys.
Americans frequently say they shun stereotypes, but in the end, slapping a label — or in this case, a name — on images and characteristics before you get a chance to become familiar with the person is the brain's natural way to make sense of something new. Unfairly, certain names also help you to decide whether to spend the time to get to know more about that person.
Today, those big blue “hi-my-name-is” tags tell a whole lot more about you to the world than you really want. So take some time to think about what you'd like your child's name tag to convey to the world.