What’s in a name?

According to an article on the BBC news website, which cites a survey by Bounty, teachers are prejudiced towards students based on their first name. Students named Courtney, Callum and Chardonnay are more likely to be trouble makers, while Emma, Edward and Elizabeth are likely to be the clever ones of the class. Many comments on this article claim it’s a load of rubbish, and on first thoughts, it seems it. But a closer look at the names brings up a different story.

The latter set of names have been around for centuries, with two belonging to monarchs and royalty. These sorts of names tend to appeal to middle and upper class families, who choose names with family meaning or sound rather posh, perhaps with the vision of their child reaching a senior position in the world of work and having a name that wouldn’t get scoffed at.

A generation ago, there were very few Courtneys, Callums and Chardonnays in schools, with many more Kevins, Simons and Carolines. Names, like clothes, music and almost everything else you can think of, go through periods of popularity. These popular names tend to appeal to working class parents who want to fit in with the current trend. The celebrity culture of using deviant spellings and unusual names for their children has been copied by ordinary parents, especially teenage ones but not exclusively, resulting in children with names such as Taela, Prince and Red. They aren’t made-up examples; I know personally of children with said names.

Middle and upper class parents are more likely to educate their children from a younger age; reading to them, encouraging them to learn and develop an aspiration for achievement; after all, if the parents are educated, they’ll want the best for their children and want their children to want the best. They might also not work during their child’s preschool years, allowing the family bond to develop.

Working class parents often can’t afford this privilege, sending their children to nursery or a childminder in order to be able to earn money. Those that don’t have to live off benefits, so would potentially struggle financially and not be able to afford the same technology or toys to boost their child’s learning as their richer counterparts. Working class families are often bigger and older children influence the younger ones. If the older sibling plays out with the local kids, the younger one will want to as well. This could result in some children being a bad influence and leading to  poor behaviour.

So maybe there is some truth in the research after all. Just remember, when giving birth, your child’s name may make or break their future.

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2 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. medleymisty says:

    Very good observations.

    It also helps me see how issues of class are tied up with the idea of intellectual giftedness.

  2. hahaheeheehaha says:

    Ah, correlation and causation. The name doesn’t cause the disruption, but they are correlated because better behaved ones, usually the ones with richer parents, are named one set of names, whereas the poorer parents call them the names associated with more disruptive children. The name is a symptom, not the cause

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