‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ is a common Shakespeare reference from Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Juliet tells Romeo that his family name is not important. Their love is what matters.
To many soon-to-be mothers and fathers, names do matter. Young parents spend countless hours trying to find the perfect name for their baby.
Many research studies have fed the belief that names can affect children’s futures.
A 1948 Harvard study looked at 3,300 graduates and found a connection between their names and their academic performance. Students with more common names were found to have done better in comparison to those with more unique names.
Similarly, a study looking at students at the University of Oxford found that people with certain names were much more likely to attend the elite school. After controlling for name popularity, they found that a student named Eleanor was 100 times more likely to get accepted than a student named Jade.
Another study has shown that female company CEOs were also more likely to have common names, but male executives were more likely to have unique names. Whether this is a case of people growing into expectations that society places on them or whether it’s a result of people discriminating against others with certain names isn’t clear.
Further studies have shown a connection between names and who people marry, and even where they live. Strangely, researchers have found a higher rate of marriage between people with similar sounding names. Another study found a higher rate of people named Virginia living in Virginia, Mildreds living in Milwaukee, Philips in Philadelphia and Jacksons in Jacksonville. Some psychologists think this is a form of egotism where people feel attracted to people and places with similar sounds to their own names.
While many parents have sweated over finding the perfect name, New Yorkers Dalton Conley and Natalie Jermijenko have bucked the trend. When their daughter was born two months early, they found themselves still debating between a handful of names that started with the letter E. Not being able to decide, they chose to just name her E until she was old enough to make the decision by herself. At the age of 16, E hasn’t yet felt the need to change.
Her brother Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weisner Knuckles has taken his parents up on the offer to change. He chose to add Heyno and Knuckles at the age of just 4. His parents, respecting his wishes, officially changed his name. Dalton Conley says, “I have been called a child abuser online….I don’t think I’ve saddled them with some horrible burden. They like the fact that they have unique names now.”