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Readers reply: do people’s names affect their personality?

·9-min read
<span>Photograph: Sergei Savostyanov/TASS</span>
Photograph: Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

Do people’s names affect their personality? Max Crane, Sydney

Send new questions to nq@theguardian.com.

Readers reply

Well, I asked Taylor Swift to alter a pair of trousers for me three weeks ago and she still hasn’t done it, so no. Decdub

My name is Brian and I am a boring, middle-class, middle-aged man. So, in my case, yes. Romead

Well, to be sure, my Liverpudlian neighbour Annette Kearton does keep herself to herself. ThereisnoOwl

Maybe not, but you do have preconceived ideas of their personality before you meet a Camilla, Rupert or Tarquin. lostinmusic

As a teacher, you can almost guarantee that an odd spelling of an otherwise normal name is a big warning sign. Also “new” boys’ names beginning with a J or a K are usually red flags as well. Jaden. Jake. Jace. Kaden. Kai. Kyle. Kyne. You see those names on a class list at the start of the year and there is definitely a heart-sinking moment. krissb1977

I am a Dave and, at my school, 10% of the boys in my year were also Daves. Having such a common first name has always forced me to add my surname when announcing myself. I often feel jealous of people with unusual first names. However, my parents very nearly called me Nigel, so I should be grateful. DavidHarveyHud

Any primary teacher will tell you the kid’s name tells you a lot of information about the parents. The Jesuits have long known how influential early years are for influencing the rest of life. So, yes, the name is linked to personality. But neither start with a blank sheet since they are both direct consequences of parental choice. leadballoon

As a teacher, names tell you much about where people are from culturally. Clearly, it’s important not to stereotype people. I hate to admit it, but when I worked as a supply teacher for a few years around London, Courtney was a name that always put me on edge. That was after a particularly difficult year with a child called Courtney. Unfortunately, most of them were a challenge in some way. None of my four children are called Courtney. Disbelief1000000

I’m the only one of six kids with an unusual name: Adrienne. And I’m the most atypical of them all. Travelled through Asia, ran my own business in China/Japan, speak the languages. All my other siblings are homebodies. Can’t explain why I’m different, but I feel it is because of my name. Adrienne Farrelly

I do think names affect personalities. Because I was named Adrienne, growing up I felt like it gave me licence to be unique. I was not just another Jennifer, Kelly or Sarah. I didn’t meet another Adrienne until university. Adrienne Altstatt, Winchester

I have a friend, an eminent surgeon, who gave his son a name with the initials AA, so that he would always be at the head of any list that was in alphabetical order. He thought it of great benefit psychologically to always be the first. His son is now a jazz musician and pretty good. The good thing about music is the concept of the best is so subjective – and that really is a psychological advantage. sophherdon

Those of us whose surnames are down past T in the alphabet certainly learn to be more patient than others. It would be nice if some of the nice things in life could be handed out in reverse alphabetically order. Neil Wyatt

I do believe that people’s name affect their personality. We Indians strongly believe in astrology and star alignments, time and zodiac sign when a baby is born. According to that, a child’s name is decided. My name is not according to my zodiac sign, birth time or start positions. But my parents loved the name. I love my name and my personality is exactly spot – it combines well with my zodiac sign, too. I am very lucky, with God’s grace and blessing, to have a powerful name, powerful personality and powerful zodiac sign. Poonam Patel

As a shy child, who moved several times, losing friends and changing schools, I longed for an inconspicuous name. Aged eight, my best friends were three Susans and a Linda. I would have loved to have been named either of those. However, my parents chose an unusual Manx name, which almost nobody could spell or pronounce. Worse, they gave me no other names. It took me a long time to get used to it, but now, many years later, I’m happy with it. Any stab at pronunciation is acceptable. I always have to spell it, but am happy to do this.

It did affect my behaviour – as a child, I was angrily shy, but clearly spoken. Now, I’m happy to be a good-natured misfit. It made me very sure to spell and pronounce other peoples names properly; it seems disrespectful to do otherwise. I didn’t give my children difficult names – although not Susan or Linda! Homingpeacock

Dreadful to give your child a celebrity-based nickname or what I consider trashy names or any other name that makes you think the child is unintelligent (when it is really the parents). Please give every exotically named child an additional plain name to fall back on. martimart

People make assumptions about you because of your name and that changes their reaction to you. I remember being at my own party when a friend of my sister stopped me from going to the kitchen with the immortal words: “I shouldn’t go in there, it’s all full of Ruperts and Fionas,” and watching his face redden when I said: “Well, actually, I am a Fiona.” Certain names are associated with particular parts of society and you will have to work hard to change people’s minds once they have put you in a particular category. caliandris

Because names are social markers, and have certain associations attached to them, what a child is named is surely likely to influence how they are perceived by others and treated by others, and how they therefore come to see and present themselves.

I was given a fairly uncommon name by my parents, because they were teachers and didn’t want to give me a name they would associate with any kids they had taught. As a kid, I didn’t like it much, because I felt it made me stand out, which isn’t something you wanted when you were at school. I desperately wanted to fit in with the other kids as much as possible, which was why I once had a tantrum at my parents about why they hadn’t named me something normal, like Kevin or Gary. I see it differently now. SnowyJohn

My full name is quite pretentious (not Jocasta, but you get the idea). My parents had aspirations. I’ve always disliked it, as I’m a very down-to-earth person. As my parents were upper-middle-class, but we went to state schools – and we moved from south to north in England and changed schools a lot – I always felt I didn’t quite fit in and was teased as being a snob. The name magnified all that. It just contributed to my feeling that I wasn’t quite normal. maplegirl

They can do. Experiments have proved that, unfortunately, bias exists in employers looking at CVs with identical qualifications but different names (ie class/race/gender differences). So, your life chances can be affected by your name, which is surely bound to influence your personality if it happens repeatedly from early childhood and not just once or twice in your life. If names didn’t matter then you would be able to name your children anything you like and you can’t: I remember reading about registrars banning parents from naming their twins Fish and Chips, for instance, although in that case I think that parenting would turn out to be the biggest external factor in influencing those children’s personalities. herrdobler

Argue and Phibbs was a well-known firm of solicitors based here in Sligo, in the west of Ireland. It was originally set up in 1919 by Mr WH Argue and Mr Talbot Phibbs.

They ran a very busy practice, which makes one wonder if this was because they made extra strenuous efforts to disprove any negative connotations attaching to their names, or whether they attracted clients who relished the notion of the pair possessing a natural tendency to argue and fib on their behalf better than most.

According to Sligo town’s official website, in the 30s it was reported in a local newspaper that an English solicitor named Cheetam was due to join the firm as a third partner, but he opted to settle in Galway, further down the coast, and the proposed partnership sadly never materialised. Perhaps for the better. Argue, Phibbs and Cheetham solicitors just might have been a step too far. BohemianGirl

The tradition in some cultures is for children to be given a provisional name at birth; once they reach a certain age at which their personality has developed, they are given a permanent name to reflect it. And why are we so attached to our names (forenames and surnames)? If a name (in itself, unrelated to a person’s heritage or appearance) functions to disadvantage somebody, why the slightest hesitation in changing it? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. pol098

If you have a foreign name people can’t pronounce, it can wear on you after a while. You might have to keep trying to teach people or settle on a nickname or badly mangled versions of your name. Anyway, the result of this kind of thing made my parents feel foreign despite about 60 to 70 years of being fully integrated, English-speaking US citizens. Dargyva

I once knew a Joy, who was the most miserable person I have ever met. Styggron

My parents kindly named me Bliss ... shame it turned out to be ironic! I highly recommend people think twice about naming their children with positive nouns – it may well backfire. BlissJG

I’ve never met an aggressive Toby. In fact, every Toby has been exactly the same. It’s the only name in my 45 years that results in the same personality. FrankDeFord

In my experience, being called Piers is a reliable indication of twathood. Scoutspouse