Health, Food & Lifestyle

Do Names Really Affect Us?…I Really Don’t Think So

Baby Names

I find it intriguing when people, especially those of black origin attach so much importance to the names they give to their babies. Choosing a name for baby is such a big deal amongst all tribes in Ghana since many believe the names has a major impact in the child’s life.

Some names are given in honour of a grandparent while majority of Christians, with recourse to the bible find the appropriate name that reflects the “holiness” of the original bearers.

Last year, I went to a naming ceremony at the invitation of a neighbour in a popular church in my vicinity. After the customary routine with Christians’ way of ‘outdorring’ a baby, the pastor requested the name of the child which has been boldly written on a piece of paper.

The pastor looked at the name and chuckled. He thereafter declared that unless the first name is changed, he may not go ahead with ceremony. In fact we were all dumbfounded.

‘Modern parents’ search the net for ‘classic’ names whilst others derive names from their favourite celebrities and stars of telenovelas. To them choosing a baby name is a matter of choice rather than tradition.

Other parents consciously give unique names accompanied with odd spellings, which to broader spectrum reveal the ‘level’ of the choosers.  In order to unravel the mystique behind names and its associated influence-good or bad, I have explored how this subject is universally projected.

In America, my research suggests, majority place much priority on names, hence they ensure they give the precise name to conform to the status quo. The findings, which are really mind boggling, are as follows:

  • If your name is common, you are more likely to be hired.
  • If your name is uncommon, you are more likely to be a delinquent
  • White sounding names like Emily and Walsh got more callbacks than candidates with black sounding names like Jamal Jones and Washington.
  • People with last names like Yardley or Zabar may be more susceptible to promotional strategies like limited time offers.
  • People with uncommon names are more likely to drop out of school and be lonely after life.
  • If your name is closer to the beginning of the alphabet, you might get into a better school.
  • If you are a woman with sexually ambiguous name, you are more likely to succeed.

Elsewhere in other parts of the world like Germany, names such as Kaiser (emperor) are found in more managerial positions than those with last names that referred to common occupations such as Kosch (cook).

Amongst the Ashanti’s of Ghana, the day of the week on which a person is born has great influence on his life throughout his stay on earth—so they believe.

This belief, which has air of superstition hovering around it, is reinforced through a person’s tendencies he portrays in life. This means good or bad things they do is closely associated with the day on which they were born.

There is no scientific theory to substantiate that names have influence on us, thus I find it really hard to reconcile this mindset with reality.

Though this article is not an instructional manual to dictate how parents should choose names for their babies, it is paramount that I blur the lines between obsolete traditions and facts to shape our outlook.

The only thing we have managed to establish is a system of dogmatic theories that have adversely affected our line of thinking. We have been made to believe that our life on earth is ‘scripted’ or that there is supernatural force out there, for instance names of Biblical characters whose names lots of us bear, manipulate our daily routines to reflect the substance of the names, on the contrary it is as a result of the stereotyping that makes people behave in a particular way to suit the context of our requirements and not the name itself.

Put simply, if someone introduces himself to you as Gabby, your subconscious mind forms a stark mental imagery of all other persons you have met before with the name Gabby. This causes us to react in a prejudicial manner, often in a subtle way.

This hypothesis sends a signal to Gabby, who unintentionally starts behaving in a manner that will suit or satisfy our expectation. This point out that Gabby’s behavior is not as result of the influence of his name but the conditions we have set for him within the parameters of culture or tradition.

This notion has rather been a psychological procedure that has been instilled in us from birth. It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “John’s are born to be leaders probably because of past Ghanaian leaders who bear the same name. This specimen is reinforced to every John in a family so they tend to aim high. Eventually, provided all conditions become favourable, they end up in managerial and other enviable situations. Others, of course end up in tatters despite their hard work.

The name ‘John’ should have empowered the latter ‘Johns’ in my scenario, don’t you think?

Evidently, names do not have power over us but our mental fortitude and the decisions we make at a particular time becomes the recipe for success. We all shape our destinies in life through our actions and inaction and not as a result of a name we inherited.

Already peoples’ names have been the subject of discrimination and prejudice because of this falsifiable perception. Some even fail to gain promotion in whatever sector they find themselves simply because of their names and the corresponding misconception.


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