Name Stereotyping: Are you guilty?
That question summoned up an issue that simmers beneath many discussions on names: What’s the image that name conveys, and do we want to take that on for our child?
To put it more plainly, do some names carry stereotypes, positive or negative, that go beyond our individual expectations and experiences? Are you guilty of stereotyping people based on their names, and what names carry the strongest stereotypes for you?
Are name stereotypes ever fair? And when you meet a Brock who’s more into physics than football, does the old stereotype fade away?
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on November 14th, 2012 at 1:41 am
I think as much as we are all guilty of it to some degree name sterotyping isn’t fair however once you know someone with that name the sterotyping does fade away. Hopefully
on November 14th, 2012 at 5:41 am
I am so guilty!! When I hear Khloe I think tacky, when I hear Enoch I think nut job, and when I hear Elizabeth I think safe. Some names will always be too sexy for a little girl and have to be cutesied: Lola, Priscilla (okay in my home town this is the name of an adult store), Veronica, Scarlett, Mona, and all the biblical bad girls like Delilah & Salome. Boys get an easier lot and stereotypes are less easily cast for me, not even Iago sounds that bad IMO.
on November 14th, 2012 at 5:43 am
There are stereotpyes but at the same time I’ve worked with a lot of kids and it’s crazy how many with the same name will have the same type of behaviour or personality. For example, Connors are always tough and naughty even if they’re nice kids and Beths and Lucys always seem to be quiet, gentle and studious.
on November 14th, 2012 at 7:01 am
The person above me says that often the kids who have the same name share similar personalities and I think that this is possible as often when one chooses a name they think of the stereotypes that name has – Lucy is ‘good girl’ while Jesse is ‘bad boy’ – and then the child is born and the parents expectations are to have the child fit the stereotype that the name has, they chose the name Lucy because it gives them a good girl vibe and so they raise their daughter in that way… so expectations and stereotypes can play a large role in character and personality. I think that if people expect you to be bad/good or anything in between most of the time we try to fill that expectation to make others happy.
I think that names although they are just what we call people, and can be considered to have no role in a persons personality, I dissagree name do change what and how we see and expect certain people to behave.
on November 14th, 2012 at 8:54 am
I do think names have a certain feeling and image they project, but I don’t think I judge people based on that once I meet them. I use name stereotyping more in character naming, and I write about it in my character naming blog.
on November 14th, 2012 at 9:49 am
The human brain has such a strong desire to seek patterns and create order out of randomness and chaos that stereotyping is an unfortunate by product of our evolution.
There is a rule of threes. If you meet 2 Jesse’s that are bad boys you’ll assume its a coincidence but if you meet a third one it will cement into your subconscious as a pattern or a rule and you’ll associate that name with that characteristic.
Its not exactly our fault. Recognizing patterns helped our understand the world and stay alive.
on November 14th, 2012 at 9:50 am
on November 14th, 2012 at 10:23 am
I don’t think you can completely avoid name stereotypes. We all have preconceived associations. So that said, I think it’s wise to give your kids as positive a name as possible. I think that’s why we don’t hear of many little Adolfs running around. There’s an interesting new baby name book called Baby Names to Live By by Tabitha Klein that focuses on namesakes rather than meanings, sounds, syllables, etc. Every name is associated with a positive role model. Of course, your baby will create her own associations with the name you give her.
on November 14th, 2012 at 11:09 am
I think that we make up name stereotypes based on the people we know with that name. For instance, I’ve never thought of Jesse as a bad boy name because both of the Jesse’s that I know are quiet, polite and very sweet. But I consider Zach a bad boy name because I know quite a few Zachs who are considered bad boys.
on November 14th, 2012 at 12:33 pm
As a teacher, I agree with Kiki. It seems that Dylans are always sneeky and in trouble! (My husband and I often tease each other that we’d never name our son that one!)
The above comment from JessicaT11 is quite interesting; I suppose it’s as valid as when you’re trying to learn or remember someone’s name, stating it 3 times in your first conversation with them.
As for Jesse, I know two personally –one a senior citizen and the other a senior in high school– they’re both wonderful!! Of course, everyone is going to have different associations with different ppl and therefore, different names.
on November 14th, 2012 at 1:47 pm
I do think that names can conjure up a particular image, character, or personality, but that is informed by all of the names references and connotations and rarely holds true in real life- it’s the difference between naming a person and naming a character.
While I do still carry strong impressions of certain names (Ryan as an athletic type and not a thinker; Erika as headstrong but intelligent; Oliver as kind and a little shy; Charlotte as a bit spoiled and prone to whining), I’d like to think that I am aware of these stereotypes and set them aside when I’m meeting a new person- and use the ‘stereotyped’ aspect to my advantage when I’m naming a character!
on November 14th, 2012 at 4:12 pm
I definitely connect things with certain names and cannot shake that connextion from the name.
The worst is when I really like a name and meet someone with that name and I don’t end up liking that person very much. The name goes way down in my list of favourites after that…
on November 14th, 2012 at 4:14 pm
I do joke about it, based on the ones I know… all Kevin’s are pale, Franki’s are sort of tough girls, Paul’s won’t call you back… okay, so maybe that’s a long-shot, but still… hahaha. For me, it’s not so much as stereotype as just an observation.
on November 14th, 2012 at 5:16 pm
Girl names always have me stereotype the most. Ellie, Allie, Evie, Kelly, and Katie all seem bubbly and hyper, with their two syllables and ‘e’ ending. However, Abby sounds studious. Names with several syllables that end with ‘a’, like Alexandra, Ariana or Katarina, sound princessy. As a rule, most girls I know with unisex names aren’t the nicest people around.
With boys, Roberto, Alex, Alec, Charlie and Kevin are bad boy names. One syllable names, like Jay, Will and Zach seem like class clowns.
on November 14th, 2012 at 5:59 pm
This topic is fascinating to me. I love to meet a new person with a name that breaks my personal name stereotypes. For example, I recently met a Jayden that makes me love the name. On him, Jayden is strong, masculine, and modern. Previously, I thought Jayden was none of those things. When my personal name stereotypes are broken, like they were with Jayden, I start to wonder if the person is the one that makes the name (image), and that maybe giving my future children trendy names will not be detrimental to their success, style, or class.
on November 14th, 2012 at 6:06 pm
I’m not sure we can stop our brains from judging people based upon names or bad associations or negative/ positive first impressions. However, we CAN control how we act upon those thoughts… We can control our actions and how we treat others.
I say this because I’ve seen people judge others based on having a name that is “too ethnic” or “too religious.” I’ve seen resumes thrown out and I’ve seen people denied for certain things based on names. I have even heard fellow teachers talk badly about students they have yet to meet based on their names alone. To me, that makes you a small person- to act upon discriminatory thoughts. If that makes sense. I guess you can train your brain to avoid categorizing people, but I think that is quite difficult. But, we can all decide not to act on these generalizations or stereotypes.
On a lighter note, I don’t think Jesse is a bad boy name. A bad boy name to me would be something like Butch lol I actually prefer names with no stereotype- Elizabeth, Caroline, James, etc. Or a name so unusual that it doesn’t have a sterotype, like Prisca.
on November 14th, 2012 at 6:44 pm
My Lola has chubby cankles and is currently wearing a spit-up covered onesie. It’s hard to imagine her ever being sexy!
on November 14th, 2012 at 7:27 pm
I think we are all (at the very least most of us) guilty of name-stereotyping to some extent. That being said, I think it’s more so with names that we don’t have a connection with, for instance, I don’t know a Brock personally and I would say that the “jock” stereotype is what I would picture to go with that name. (Whether or not that’s because Brock RHYMES with jock or not… I don’t know). However, I think that if I were to meet a Brock tomorrow, HE would become the “stereotype” that I would associate with the name Brock from that point forward. I think this is likely true for most people.
on November 14th, 2012 at 7:36 pm
I do sometimes stereotype names. I associate Bad Boy with the name Scott or Dylan and the Brainiac Shy girls with Olivia and Ava. Pretty girls are Brianna, Kara, Francine, and Kayla while handsome boys are Lance, Jesse, Connor and James. Brainy boys are Jared, Kevin, Dale, or Kyle while the Athletes in my mind would also be the Jesse, Zack, and Tyler’s. We wanted to name our first daughter Sophia and my Mother had a fit because she said that is an Old Lady’s name! Stereotypes can be different for different people, areas, & age groups etc.
on November 14th, 2012 at 7:49 pm
My only stereotype is definitely “J” names for boys. Be it a Jason, a Josh, a Jaxon, a Jesse, a Johnny. They all have a tendency to be naughty! Naughty as boys and then naughty (but often gorgeous!) as men! I was never going to have a “J” son. Too fearful of a crazy toddler and then a man who is a heart-breaker! 😉
on November 14th, 2012 at 9:42 pm
Guilty. Justin/Dustin will always be an obnoxious bad boy type. All Nicks are mischievous. Anyone named Brett is a jock. Lola will forever be a preteen “nymphette” (ugh, I wish I could un-read Nabokov’s Lolita).
on November 14th, 2012 at 11:00 pm
I think names like Wyatt or Jesse are stereotyped like that because of the Outlaws from the old west. I know a Wyatt and a Jesse that are straight A students and great community citizens. I think names like Margaret and Martha are stereotyped the goodie goodies because they are associated old school – wall flower names. If people know a person with a certain personality with a name, it sticks in their mind. That’s only natural. Each person has to make their own identity with their name. I don’t believe that stereotyping is acurate.
on November 18th, 2012 at 8:33 am
I could write a lot on this subject; I have discussed it often. Some names do offer a very positive image,others are something for the person so named to overcome if they can.Parents need to keep this in mind. My views on this are not unique to me; consider the names chosen for the wimpy, hen-pecked husband in many movies and sit-coms over the years: Harvey,Herbert,Herman,Homer,Harry;for this character almost any man’s name that starts which the letter “H” works;they all sound like they’ll be wimps and push-overs
on November 18th, 2012 at 9:29 am
It would be interesting to see a list of names and what image one has based on it before anything of the bearer is known. How this is seen will vary with individuals;as has been pointed out here some names can be ruined on a personal basis by having an association with a dissagreeable person who had that name, while others can gain new appreication for the exactly opposite reason. Having said that, I think there is a lot of aggreement; I will offer a few of my own,see what you think:
Jack: (Just posted about this one) Upbeat,a wise ass, always up to something,very likeable,great sense of humor.
John: colorless, could just as well be a number.
Nick: Similar to Jack.
Tom and Jim: Solid stand-up guys,loyal friends who will come thru for you. Not colorful characters though.
Harvey,Allan,Niel: Nerds,with problems that nerds always have. Good grades in math though.
Mike: Lots like John, tells you nothing.
Monty: (Nickname my Dad used) Much like Jack too, likeable,not serious.
Eddy: “Fast Eddy”, Eddy Haskell; some of Jack’s qualities, but much more likely to be in trouble for the “up to something” aspect.
Dick: None of them left under age 75,this was a name that told you TOO much and gave those guys no chance; we all agreed; it died.
Johnny: Always a kid, often needs to be saved from something.Would love to be Jack, but isn’t.
Any surname used as first name: Pretentious,affects air of superiority,feels entitled,formal, stuffy. Ranks of govt. officials filled with these. There are a few good ones though, must take each on its own merits. Your mileage may vary.
Cathy: Colorless, no image appears, like John and Mike.
Ann or Anne: A very nice girl.You need to know more though, but will be good.
Laura: Very feminine, may not help you with the yard work; you won’t mind.
Maude: Very frumpy, was born old,unattractive, has personality to match.
Ida,Irene: Someone’s grandma that they are glad to only have to see at Christmas.
I could go on with this forever,every name conjures an image for each of us, even if its’ not much of one,as with John didn’t for me. It would be fun to see what some others think, I hope some of you will reply with your thoughts on this.
on November 18th, 2012 at 8:01 pm
@ Wombat50 – I nearly married a Johnny. The reason I didn’t??? Cause he totally had a Peter Pan complex at the age of 35!! He was always going to be a teenager so totally agree with you on that one!
on November 28th, 2012 at 9:02 am
Lol most of my auto-thoughts when it comes to names are negative: -ustin’s(dustin, justin,etc) are kind of bratty and have no sense of consequence, bradys are crazy as kids, Sean’s are the worst boyfriends ever(personal experience and that of at least half a dozen of my friends), Nicole’s are b*tches(it’s my mn and I joke that that’s where my b*tchiness comes from lol but I’ve yet to meet a nice one), Tara’s are stuck up, self serving, and powerhungry(I’ve encountered 5 and have yet to experience otherwise), michelles are usually pretty flighty, Jessica’s are backstabbers but are really good friends on the surface…..I’m trying really hard to think of good ones but it’s the bad ones that really stick out in my memory lol…
on May 12th, 2013 at 7:58 pm
Patrick – Crazy.
Shaun – Badly behaved.
Name your child Patrick or Shaun at your peril!
on November 10th, 2013 at 10:14 am
Asher feels like a rotten guy because of books. I’ve read about a few… less-than-nice Ashers. It turned me off the name big time. However, it’s been a while since I read about any terrible Ashers, so it seems to be wearing off a bit.
Truey/Trudy/anything similar will always to me be the boy who a few times intentionally mixed up the genders of me and my guy best friend a few times. He was annoying. And though I haven’t seen him around in a couple of years, he was the only Trudy/Truey (?) I knew and it stuck.
on January 12th, 2014 at 8:59 pm
MARGARET IS ALWAYS STUDIOUS! It’s so true for me personally. I know three very smart Margarets of various ages (One goes by Margaret exclusively , the other goes half-and-half between Margaret/Maggie, and the third goes half-and-half between Maggie/Marge) The other day I met a seven-year-old who barely looked up from the sixth Harry Potter book she had her nose in. I didn’t mind, she was a nice and intelligent kid 🙂 Her name was Grace, but throughout the day, I called her Margaret/Maggie several times! Whoops!
on March 5th, 2014 at 8:55 pm
Margaret is studious in my mind, too. It is my mom’s and grandmother’s name and both are studious (well, my grandmother was when she was living)
Brock–I always associate with the jock from school, I hated that kid, he was such an egotistical jerk…
on September 14th, 2018 at 12:02 pm
My brother is named Brock, and yes he loves sports but he is a polite gentleman who respects girls. What comes up more often than jerk is Brock from Pokemon. And both of us hate Pokemon.
What I am guilty of stereotyping though, are Hailey’s. I assume they are basic and love drama, so I stay away from Hailey’s. There was only 1 out of 15 in my school that I like.
on June 8th, 2019 at 6:55 am
I do think of stereotypes/characters when I hear names, though that doesn’t always reflect the actual person’s personality.
I’ve seen people on this site who say my name gives off “bad girl” or “sex-obsessed” vibes even though I’m extremely lawful and I’m asexual. Don’t judge people by their name – name stereotypes can be true, or the complete opposite, or neutral. Like you could round up three Margarets – one could be studious, the other could be a rebel who hates school and the other is an average student.
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