Name Teasing: How much should you worry?
How much do you worry about teasing potential when you consider baby names?
Would you take Astrid off the table, for instance, because you’re concerned about how that first syllable might be spun into a tease? (A discussion about Astrid and name teasing over in the forums sparked this blog.)
Would you or did you rule out a name that’s too unusual or unfamiliar for fear it would lead to teasing? How about a name with teasing potential because of its ethnic or gender identity?
Were you ever teased because of your own name and how did you handle it? Do you think things have changed around name teasing or bullying, with a wider range of names better accepted these days– is teasing largely a thing of the past?
I hope we can all agree that name teasing or bullying should never be tolerated, but does it happen anyway and would it influence your choice of a baby name?
And here are some intriguing posts spotted by Katinka on the forums this week–just follow the links:
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on January 23rd, 2018 at 12:10 am
I do worry about teasing potential. People can be cruel. Often unwittingly. There’s also growing research out there that shows that name discrimination is a very real thing. I don’t think this means that one can’t be creative and push boundaries, but I do believe that parents have an obligation to think through and test their choices carefully to consider exactly how their children’s names will be received. Thank you Nameberry for being a place where we can do just that.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 12:37 am
I just saw the “name” Dimple on the girl’s popularity bubble so I can’t help laughing. Of course someone who would name her daughter Dimple is beyond worrying about teasing.
Truthfully, I worry less about teasing potential with names these days than about likely nicknames that I hate. For example, if I loved Astrid, I’d name my daughter that. I actually find it a harsh sounding name, but it isn’t the ass part that caused stupid boys in my high school to call our teacher Astrid nicknames; they called her Astride b/c they couldn’t handle the thought of a strong woman who might be sexual. There are always plenty of idiots around and I mostly don’t worry about them. Some boys in elementary school called me Leslie the Lesbo until I froze them out with my stares.
It’s more a lovely name like Charles I would avoid for fear he might be called Chuck or Charlie, both of which I detest.
Having said that, I might steer clear of names with Tit in them like Titian or Letitia, even though I love them both. Or I might say screw idiot males and name my daughter one of them anyway!
on January 23rd, 2018 at 2:27 am
As a primary school teacher I just don’t see it these days. In my school there are kids named Ocean and Kung Foo and they are totally accepted. There is such a variety of names now that kids don’t even notice! I’m sure in high school this could be a little different.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 2:54 am
I worry more about potential problems during job hunting. When a boss sees your childs name on their resumé would they take it seriously? That kind of stuff.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 5:21 am
As a former bully victim, I can say with complete confidence that the persistent belief by parents that kids will be bullied or teased just for their names is pure and utter BS.
From personal experience, yes, my name was targeted by bullies quite ruthlessly. But so was everything else about me. Bullies will pick apart what they can. They will go for you if you don’t have any friends, or if you have trouble making friends as quickly as others do, because that makes you an easier target. They will go for you based on whether or not you’re too fat for their liking, or too thin. They will go for you because they don’t like the way you look, the clothes that you wear, the music you listen to, the way that you talk etc.
A child’s name is just one of the many things bullies will use to cause pain, shame, embarrassment or general discomfort, but it is not the deciding factor on whether or not they will be bullied. A bully doesn’t walk up to a kid and think: “If she has a ‘normal’ name like Catherine or Mary, then she’s safe. But if she’s got a ‘weird’ name like Dido or Euphrosyne, then I’m going to rip her to shreds for the next 10+ years.” – that’s not how bullying works, and I really wish some people would cop on to that fact. Also, lets not forget that a vast majority of children are give ‘safe’, ‘normal’ names, and yet teasing and bullying is running rampant with no signs of slowing.
Case in point, I hate that people continue to give naming advice based on potential future bullying. No name is ‘safe’ from bullying, because its the person that makes the name, and so it is the person who is never truly safe…
So, having said all that – no. When choosing names, I give absolutely no thought to how other children will react. My concern is whether or not the name is realistic overall, e.g. – will it look good on a job application / will it be taken seriously?
p.s – going back to the teasing/bullying issue, I have one final thing to say: if parents were less concerned about their child being bullied, and more concerned with making sure that their child didn’t turn out to BE the bully, the world (or at the very least school) would be a far better place.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 6:11 am
Three cheers for your comment AldabellaxWulfe!
Also, I really enjoyed the forum threads that were linked, but was kind of annoyed that the forum on “royal” names got shut down because people started discussing ideas of “low-class.” I thought the conversation was overall quite civil, with some people bandying the word low-class around and other people contextualizing it. I really dislike the tendency to shut down discussion as soon as anyone tries to say anything political. The points raised on both sides had the potential to develop into an interesting conversation: there IS a lot of prejudice attached to names. It’s good to know what that prejudice is, as well as recognize that prejudices that you hold yourself: this happens through conversation.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 7:00 am
There a difference between a name which is just a bit odd (the given examples of Dido or Euphrosyne) vs something which sounds like a rude word or sounds like one when combined with a surname (Ben Dover, Mike Rotch etc etc).
Mostly when it comes to somewhat outre naming, it’s not being bullied by other kids that I worry about. It is the years and years of having to constantly spell your name, the adults who don’t believe that you could be named that, birthday cards and such being misspelt. It’s kind of exhausting. Plus, yeah the job hunt.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 8:56 am
@aldebellaxwulfe: YES. Your comment sums up my views on bullying. If a kid wants to bully you, it’s not going to be because of your name. A name is just potential ammunition.
I will add in response to the last link that I’ve seen traditional names (Winifred, Gertrude, Doris) dismissed far more often and more rudely than “out-there” modern and/or invented names. Also, I have a completely normal name (er, normal in my corner of the world) and as a kid, other kids didn’t care about my name. ADULTS would make “clever” references to various associations. It was far more humiliating than any stupid nickname my peers ever gave me, and when I asked them to stop, I got the “it’s-just-a-joke-sweetie” speech. Now, on the occasions when I work with kids, I’ll hear a peer make a snide comment about a name under his or her breath, and this has led to my belief that kids will make fun of your name because they want to make fun of YOU. Adults are the ones who care about the names, and even then I’m speaking about a minority. So I’m not particularly worried about name teasing.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 10:03 am
AldabellaxWulfe got it just right re: bullying–and I’ll add that in my experience working with kids, it’s *adults* who say rude things about children’s names, not other kids, who tend not to know or care what is unusual and what is not.
I might solicit feedback on a name to get an idea of what kind of reactions I/my child might face, but it wouldn’t really influence my decision. Ultimately you can’t please everyone, and it’s challenging enough to agree with my spouse on a name without taking into consideration the tastes of random people on the street.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 10:12 am
I am not concerned about name teasing for all the reasons already stated. I am concerned about not “type-casting” a child through their name (for example, naming a daughter Bambi seems to set the expectation for her that you expect her to be a sweet, passive girl not a strong, capable women). Worse yet, is the expectations others will have about the individual. Bambi is a hard name to take seriously on a college or job application.
There are certainly more subtle considerations. If you name one son Rocky and another Reese are you giving a message that you expect one to be athletic and macho and the other to be artsy and more feminine? We may or may not treat our children differently based on their names but I think others will perceive them differently.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 10:35 am
@lesliemarion: Dimple is actually quite a common name in the Indian/Indian-American community. Before you mockingly dismiss a name out of hand, it’s worth considering and/or researching whether a name that you consider ridiculous might actually be commonplace in another culture.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 3:58 pm
I got picked on for my last name – Oliver – a perfectly normal, wouldn’t think it would cause any offence, name. I say, you can’t overthink these things.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 4:58 pm
Although I would advise against a name that does sound obviously like something rude, and I would also consider how any name will be received in the workplace, I really don’t think that bullying over names at schools is a particularly big deal. Of course, ‘children can be cruel’, but in my experience if children are going to bully someone they are going to bully them – regardless of their name. A girl called Lucy will be just as easily picked on as anyone else. In fact, I think children are by far the most accepting of out-there, unusual names, purely because they haven’t had as much exposure to names as adults, and don’t necessarily know what is a ‘normal’ name. My mother was in a class at primary school (in the north of England) with a girl named Peta (pronounced Peter), a girl named Graciela, and a girl named Claire, and consequently grew up thinking they were equally common names.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 5:41 pm
There’s a balance. Some parents name their children outrageous names, then try to justify it by saying that bullying is not a problem. If the name is outrageous enough, it could put a target on your child’s back.
In most cases, I don’t think that the name would be the sole reason for the bullying. As for CVs, who knows what our generation will think when receiving CVs from people named Astrid, Freya, Apollo, Caspian, Atticus, etc. By then these names may seem quite mainstream.
on January 23rd, 2018 at 6:46 pm
As I wrote in the Astrid thread, I’m Kathryn and got called ‘Cat-urine’ so even your “normal” names aren’t safe and as has been covered, bullies will ALWAYS find something. Astrid is an amazing name!
on January 23rd, 2018 at 8:12 pm
To be honest it doesn’t occur to me much. Like, I would never give my child a name that sounds too similar to a rude word because that would just be no fun for them in any situation, but my main name criteria is 1) something me and my partner both adore 2) something easily pronounceable 3) something not too common 4) something that will suit them at any age or is conducive to a nickname that will. Maybe I was just lucky with the community I grew up in, but I don’t know anyone who was ever teased about their name, and I went to an alternative school so there were some wacky ones!
on January 23rd, 2018 at 11:59 pm
Names are your whole identity, especially in school when the only indication you exist is that name on a piece of paper, whiteboard, name cards, etc. You might think kids are gonna get teased anyway, etc., and that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you should say “oh, the ice caps are gonna melt anyway, might as well pollute if I wanna.”
If you wouldn’t want to have had the name, don’t give it to your kid. If you’re on the fence, I say air on the side of caution. It’s really not about you, it’s about a totally innocent little baby that will have to be saddled with your choice for the rest of their life.
on January 24th, 2018 at 1:27 am
@classicbookworm ~ I totally agree with you in regard to adults vs. children and name teasing. I had an unusual name growing up (not quite so unusual anymore, but still not top 100 material). Now, I’ve always liked my name and most people would comment on how pretty it was. The only memorable teasing I received about my name came from an adult who ought to have known better.
The more annoying thing was when teachers and others would read my name and either not bother to read what was actually written or assume it was a misprint. Either way, a handful of much more common, similar names would be substituted and I would need to correct them. I really don’t think this is nearly the problem today that it was for me as a child of the 80’s. Because parents overall are more adventurous in the baby naming and drawing from an ever-widening pool of name choices, adults seem to be more open to actually using their phonetic reading skills to decipher unusual names, or at least to ask before embarrassing themselves.
All that said, even with the misunderstandings and (very occasional) teasing, I loved my name growing up and still love it today. I think it’s more important that an unusual name have a great meaning or story (mine does), because that will have more staying power for the child than, say, I string of unrelated syllables carelessly strung together. If anyone said, “That’s weird!”, I could just say, “Actually, I was named after…”, and turn the whole conversation around. 😉
on January 24th, 2018 at 1:20 pm
@Eu I also found it odd that that was shut down. There have been so many threads that have touched on racially sensitive topics. I can only imagine that someone got their feelings hurt and asked for it to be locked. A shame, really. Perhaps we are meant to use words like chaavy instead, as class is pertinent with regards to naming.
alexandra nicole Said
on January 24th, 2018 at 5:36 pm
I feel like, as has been said before, bullying will happen regardless, but I would never want to make my child’s life even harder by giving them a name that would make it easier for bullies to target them. For example, one name I’ve seen discussed before is Orla, which (while a pretty name) is literally the letters of “oral” (as in oral sex) rearranged. Kids are creative– they see that, and I feel like they would have a field day. Another concept is giving boys names that were traditionally male, but that have become female-associated names over time (i.e. Leslie, Ashley, Alexis, Beverly, Hilary). Again, kids can be cruel– until these names morph back into solidly unisex options or until they become more mainstream for males, I feel like they are just targets for bullies.
on January 27th, 2018 at 3:04 pm
@AldabellaxWulfe I completely agree. My name is Catherine and I was bullied in middle school simply because I had transferred to the school and was an easy target for bullies. Parents should care more about teaching their child to not be the bully (and to not be a bystander) than if they are going to get bullied because of their name. Additionally I liked your comment about if a name would look good on a job application. My brother has a rule about naming his kids: he has to be able to envision a person with that name sitting in front of a PhD review board to get their thesis approved. While not everyone may use that as their criteria, I do think it’s important to think about how a name will transfer into adulthood and how it will function later in life. School is around 13 years of your life, then there’s the other 60+. If my child were to ever be bullied in some way because of their name, I would explain to them why I picked their name then give them the option of going by a nickname or a middle name if they feel that would help.
on January 27th, 2018 at 4:53 pm
Honestly, name teasing is not a concern for me at all. I’ve never heard a kid say anything about my name, which is a name that no one I’ve met who wasn’t Indian had ever heard, except maybe asking how to pronounce it. (Adults, of course, are a different story). I would be more worried about people being able to pronounce it correctly, or at least sound it out based on the spelling, because I remember when I was little, it was people not being able to say my name that would really lower my self-esteem.
on January 29th, 2018 at 5:22 pm
I’m 19, which apparently doesn’t quite count as a kid anymore, but I’m still on the younger side of the berry spectrum and through my whole childhood I never saw someone actually being bullied or teased for their name. We made jokes about each other’s names which were good-spirited and friendly, and most were bad puns (mine were Camera and Camcorder). Since going to college and meeting people from around the world, I’ve gotten the sense that as a whole name teasing has pretty much died down universally. Obviously I don’t know for sure, but I doubt kids have started teasing based on names again. It’s a topic I see being discussed a lot on Nameberry, so I’m guessing as recently as 5-10 years before I was born it was still commonplace, but I do NOT think it should be a reason not to pick a name. It’s doubtful that it would even be an issue.
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