Your name

by Admin
Updated: July 24, 2018

Does your name affect who you are, what you look like and how successful you can become?

At the very least, we are raised from birth knowing that a certain sound identifies us. It will have some effect. The extent to which it is connected with a positive or negative meaning will have an additional effect.

While we are affected by our names, we may not be obviously defined by them.

What’s in a name

Consider two children who are somehow raised under identical conditions, except one is named “Doofus” and the other is named “Genius.” Will there be any difference between them?

Language

Language has evolved from sounds that mimicked what they were describing. We still have words that clearly demonstrate this (click, tap etc.) and in a slightly less obvious way with the bouba/kiki effect (round, sharp etc.).

However, the relationship between other words and more abstract meanings has to be learned and can vary significantly between cultures.

Furthermore, meanings can become inverted through a process of sarcasm, e.g. to describe someone as special could be good or bad.

We know that Doofus is derogatory and Genius is complimentary. Below are the results of some quick tests I carried out on a recent trip to the UK:

What is seen

When you speak a word, you form it with the shape of your mouth which in turn affects your expression.

When I ran a test without any sound, most people reacted positively to the expression of Doofus because it resembled moderate pleasant surprise and a kiss mouth shape. Genius didn’t fare so well because it showed teeth and a seemingly aggressive expression.

What is heard & how it is interpreted

It’s difficult to separate the emotional reaction to the sound of a word from the meaning the listener has already attached to it.

Genius was generally accepted as good-sounding by everyone. In the UK, where they don’t use the same slang terms, Doofus was not too bad.

First names (self-identification & modification)

While being identified by a certain sound (with or without some layered meaning) can have an effect over the years, it’s normal for us to have some kind of identity crisis and rebel during our teens.

Unless your name is unusable in society (Adolf? Isis?), in which case it’s probably a good idea to change it legally, there are two ways of adjusting to your name:

  1. Adapt the name to yourself: Preference for an abbreviation or nickname, use of middle names and/or initials.
  2. Adapt yourself to the name: Live up to it or react against it.

Continuing the example, someone called Doofus might pursue their education to prove themselves whereas someone called Genius might fall short under the pressure of expectations.

Last names

Last names can’t be modified or changed easily. If you really don’t like the sound of yours it can be worthwhile doing some research on it. Some time in history and/or somewhere in the world it’s almost certainly a good name.

More info

“The Dorian Gray effect: how your name alters your face” at telegraph.co.uk.

“The Name Game: how names spell success in life and love” at sciencefocus.com.

“13 surprising ways your name affects your success” at businessinsider.com.

“The Hidden Truth of Your Name” (excerpts from book) at randomhouse.com.

Internal links

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