This conversation is closed.

Typically YOU did not choose your name. How does one's name affect their lives? Do you/have you ever wished for a different name? What? Why?

I'm interested in the labels we use to describe each other and ourselves. The most intimate of which is our own name. Since traditionally most people are given a name at birth, well before they establish personality, interests, ability, etc., what effect does one's given name have on their lives, if any? Do you think it's possible to inherit traits, good & "bad" based on your name? What I'm looking for is: Your first name growing up, or the name by which you were called AND answered to. [last names present rich diversity - but I'm not equipped yet to go there!] Did you love your name? Hate it? Never think about it? Does it, in your opinion suit you? Do you hold true to the poetic musing: "What's in a name? That which we call a Rose would smell as sweet..." In others words, do we define our names, or do they, by some measure [great or small] define US? Would you change it if you felt able to? To what name would you change your given to? What do you perceive the impact of such a change would be? Please answer some of these questions, or all - with my sincere thanks!

  • thumb
    Jul 23 2011: Different culture has different take on it... I think it's part of the culture and THAT is why it create a "problem" when communication becomes ubiquitous ... world got smaller. But trying to be positive on this I'd say it's the simplest way to "teach" compassion to people... and simplest sign of the need for awareness about globalization.

    Have you seen meet the "Focker" ?
    *smile*
    • Aug 5 2011: Sorry for the delayed response on my part! Very well said - and I think your point about culture is right on - at the source IS language and communication. What I observe is the more materialistic and"westernized" (for lack of a better term and without an qualifying research behind it) a community is, the more influenced they are by trends driven by pop culture, which does affect even the names we give our children. Yet I see exceptions to my own observation immediately, noticing that, culture & geography have an impact, and that impact is pretty darn diverse. Is there any common thread at all that reflects how a person's name drives their future? Probably not one that is globally very important - yet, this has been very good "food for thought" - and I appreciate your response so much!

      Now, how different would your life be if your last name was Focker? LOL. Thank goodness that deeply rooted in our desire to communicate with one another is something else: Humor! Your last line was both hysterical (I DID laugh out loud!) and perfectly timed :)
      • thumb
        Aug 6 2011: I think name is more a mean than a factor in people's life.
        the common thread you're looking for stems from the common need shared by practically all cultures - survival.
        Survival leads to competition and It drives people to assess things quickly and correctly. It came naturally in technical fields like logistic but it gets funny when applied to people thanks to statistical science.
        I got around 1600 characters left so I try to sum what am about to say with a cool t-shirt I ran into once :

        Heaven is where the police are British,
        the chefs Italian,
        the mechanics German,
        the lovers French,
        and it's all organized by the Swiss.

        Hell is where the police are German,
        the chefs are British,
        the mechanics French,
        the lovers Swiss,
        and it is all organized by the Italians.

        A 25 buck wisdom
        http://www.zazzle.com/european_heaven_and_hell_funny_t_shirt-235920189307006626
  • thumb
    Aug 9 2011: This is a topic that has occupied parts of my attention at a particular period of my life. It was important to me to name my children well because I felt that I would be reaffirming my hopes for them for a life time each time I called their name. With a last name like Smith- which can be pretty anonymous- I wanted them to be distinctive but not unusual. I went with meanings behind the names.
    My own name Debra means seeker and I think it is pretty accurate.
  • Aug 9 2011: So if you married a Libbey, you could be Libbey 2.0. Cool.
  • thumb
    Aug 8 2011: Both my parents claimed to have named me, so I can't be sure who really did. But in Korean, we put the last name before the first name, and so my name would actually be Jo Eun A. Usually, each syllable in a Korean name has an old Korean (Chinese-looking) character associated with it; for example, my brother's name is Jo Yuk Jeung - Jo stands for the place of origin, Yuk stands for number six, and Jeung stands for "values" - Put simply, his name stands for the six values of Korean culture: Respect, order, etc.

    Contrastingly, however, my name is in modern Korean. JoEunA as one word means "a good child" and that's what my name stood for. As a child, I did not like my name because I thought it was so "meaningless." I had a friend called Yi Yoon Jung whose name stood for the central jewel in a queen's crown - in other words, majestic beauty. And here I was, with character-less (both literally and figuratively) name, disappointed that I had no fancy old characters to describe the meaning of my name.

    Well. Now I'm way past that stage. I like my name, and I've learned that no other name could replace this one. I had once come up with an English name while studying abroad, and strangely, I could never identify with that name. Even more queer is the fact that I can identify with various versions of my name created through different pronunciations, and yet I couldn't be more uncomfortable with a new name. I guess I'm meant to be a good child.. :-)
    • Aug 9 2011: What beautiful sentiments! Amazing how complex naming a child can be. I see the progression you've made as a parallel of sorts - from childhood to adult - it's very representative of growing up in fact. Thank you for illustrating that point - I think it's important.
      Language is so rooted in this subject, as is translation. My relatives immigrated to the US from Poland on my Mother's side. My great grandmother learned to speak some English, but not fluently. What I want to share with you is this: To my great grandmother, "good" meant beautiful. I suppose our family just took in that additional meaning and used it as well, so with my family at least, your name meaning "good" child - would also mean "beautiful child" (how cool is that?!)
      I'm re-reading the first part and getting closer to understanding the structure of Korean names. So new to me - I love having this new information! Thanks again!
  • thumb

    Ben Jin

    • +1
    Aug 8 2011: My name, Benjamin Jin, was chosen by my Chinese parents just a few years after they had moved to the United States from Taiwan. They chose the name "Benjamin" because of some positive blurb they read about the particular name in the baby book. And anyways, it doesn't sound that bad, right?

    Thus imagine my chagrin when I entered middle school and I, as well as many others, realized that my initials, "B.J.", stood for a certain explicit sexual act. Clearly my parents didn't know about this colloquial term, so they knew no wrong about calling me B.J. (and to this day, they still don't know!)

    Reasonably I really didn't like my name. It was just a source for ridicule and a kind of embarrassing... well, embarrassment. And I couldn't do anything to control it, because, well, it was middle school. Nobody can control a horde of hormonal teenagers with newly-raunchy-minds.

    If anything, though, now I wear my name like a badge rather than a liability. No, not because I'm the school prostitute, but just because it's funny and it's something that catches people's eyes. Nobody judges by your names nowadays (unless it's REALLY bad), but letting them realize your name is B.J. is something that kinda... opens them up to you. It almost helps to make me more approachable, in a way. I watch comedians on T.V. and they all seem to unanimously agree in that they must have jokes where they make fun of THEMSELVES. After all, someone who can't roll with the punches is just a wimp, right? Seeing this name on me, a normal, everyday guy, theoretically makes people think I can take a joke, which is a good first impression. So I guess in a weird twisted way, I do kind of thank my parents for giving me this... unfortunate... name. Heh. We can all learn from bad things, I guess that's what I want to say.

    But we should be proud of our names! Symbolically they are who we are. From "Bill" to "MacGhilleseatheanaich," we should be proud of what our parents gave us!
  • Comment deleted

    • Aug 8 2011: Hi Eric ~
      I like the synopsis :) All true I think. But from a personal standpoint - did your name ever strike you as being a good fit, or was it something that you just accepted as part of you?
  • thumb
    Jul 16 2011: I think it's the same as the genetics thing - that far too many different factors influence your life to be able to pin it down to one.
    • Jul 17 2011: Hello Scott ~ it's all relative right? I agree - it would seem pretty apparent that naming is so influenced by so many factors. Thank you for your input! Libbey
      • thumb
        Jul 17 2011: My name supposedly means 'tartan clad warrior' or 'scottish warrior' but I'm a pacifist with the legs of a sprinter, in actuality.
        • Jul 18 2011: LOL! Now THAT was hysterical and made my day! [almost spit my coffee out to boot!]
          I recently found out my last means "hunter of moose"
          Which is just me, all over. ;)
  • thumb
    Jul 16 2011: Hi Libbey, there are actually studies that show how names can influence your career.
    I don't think it has something to do with inheriting traits, but more with how certain names are perceived by other people.
    Don't you feel different about somebody whose name is Benjamin or Alfred vs. somebody whose name is John or David ?
    Some names are perceived as soft while others are strong and since the name is attached to a particular person this feeling of the name translates to the person itself.
  • Aug 8 2011: While I have never wondered if I should have another name, my wife and I have had conversations in order to find a last name that we are both happy with. She didn't take my last name when we married and I didn't take her. And we both thought the entire hyphenated last name craze was not self-sustaining in a generation or 2. For example if John Meyer-Gadd married Libbey Koppinger-Mavacevic, then would their kids name be Alice Meyer-Gadd-Libbey-Mavacevic?. And if Alice married Ralph Stupid-Hyphenated-Last-Name, would their kid be Georgia-Anne Meyer-Gadd-Libbey-Mavacevic-Stupid-Hyphenated-Last-Name? And what happens when Georgia gets married. It's an exponential progression.

    I do know someone who had their name changed to Happy Daze. And it suits her.
    • Aug 9 2011: HA! Well said. At some point we can't assimilate every surname associated with our heritage - totally true. My name is my maiden name, I never changed it, though I did hyphenate it to include my children's last name just for ease of identity, but I didn't do so "legally"
      Where I'm from, "Libbey" is actually a well known last name, and the Libbey family are huge contributors to the city's heritage and art community, as well as the founders of Libbey Glass. My parents used to wonder aloud what would happen if I grew up and married a "Libbey" - because then my name would be Libbey Libbey. I however thought that was AWESOME. But that was also during the time of my life when I named my pet hamster Tulip Twinkletoes, so I think my judgement was questionable. ;)
      Have you ever considered creating a new last name that suits you both? That goes a bit to far for me personally, but I do know couples who have created a fused last name, taking parts of their original last names. Thanks so much for your comments, good points!
  • Aug 8 2011: Ben ~
    I LOVE your post. Truly. I hope it's one that lots of people will read.

    You took this question and used it in the best possible way - to talk about your own experience and then turn it outward - with a message that is so positive - you literally made my week!

    I disagree with one tiny thing - your statement about people who can't roll with the punches being "wimps" From the tone of your post I'd say it was said more in jest, but in my experiences anyway, when people don't or can't roll with the punches, it's because they are feeling sensitive about the issue at hand, and that deserves some respect too. We never really know what else folks might be dealing with at any give time - so an innocent or good natured jab might be the thing that triggers real hurt or emotional outpouring. But you bring up a wonderful "life skill" of sorts: the ability to laugh at ourselves.

    That said - I applaud your strength - and how you used an unfortunate set of initials and turned them into an ice breaker, be who you are and frankly, from what I see, that means a wonderfully witty guy whose parents gave him a name that's pretty cool - I'm sure they are really proud of you. Your writing is something else to be proud of - and it was my pleasure totally to read this post!

    Thank you - so much :) Well done.
    • thumb
      Aug 9 2011: Libbey, thank you so much! I'm kinda new to this entire thing, so any sort of feedback is greatly appreciated, especially really heart-warming ones like yours.

      You're right in that I meant it in jest, but I guess maybe it wasn't exactly the most politically correct thing to say, haha... I guess honesty is still an integral element in these TED conversations, but I should probably try to phrase things better also, especially these sensitive topics that might be misconstrued. So thanks for that feedback a lot, and thanks for starting this interesting conversation! I love reading all the different comments.
      • Aug 9 2011: Hi Ben - I hope you'll stick with it. I think, for whatever it's worth, you are a very good writer. Your post was such fluid commentary, and just fun to read. Much of what is written on TED loses it's "train of thought" so to speak - but there was an ease to your writing I found enjoyable - outside of even the question itself.

        My oldest child is an avid writer - and it seems so easy for her - your styles are somewhat similar in fact. As you can see, my writing stops and starts, and tends to be a bit choppy. I'm always mindful of that bad habit... I suppose I more readily recognize words written by others that ebb and flow so smoothly. There is so much BAD writing in the world - I like to point out the good stuff when I see it.

        So as my daughter would say: Rock On! (LOL)
        • thumb
          Aug 10 2011: Haha! Stay with the times, Libbey. Rock On and LOL = very cool! :) You and your daughter are a riot! Thanks for everything, I'll keep getting at it.
  • Aug 6 2011: Hello Marija ~
    Thank you for your response! Just when I was thinking, this topic is not so very universal! Your statement that you "hated" your name is fairly strong - not just disliked, but hated. Do you recall why?
    From what you wrote, I gather that changing your name would be akin to somehow changing your life as well, yet is easier done when your friends changed. So I assume you've decided to keep your name (which for the record, I think is a lovely name - it reminds me of Marigold, a favorite summer flower, but with a softer expression so the imagery for me anyway that's associated with your name is really very beautiful) Did having a name you wanted to change, but felt you couldn't, affect any choices you made or behavior growing up, or even now?
    And again! SO interesting! Thank you :) Libbey
    • thumb
      Aug 7 2011: Hello, Libbey :) So many questions... :P Well, I'll try to answer!
      I have asked my mom, if she remembered when I started torturing them with the subject, and her reaction was- Oh, my God, again with the name??? But I remember it was in kindergarten, so I guess it wasn't about changing my life- I was a very happy child. As I said, it never felt right. But the main reason why I never changed it is that I never had an alternative, I never found a name that would be perfect.
      As I wrote, later I had so many reasons my name was ugly- it's the most common name in croatia (and my surname is second most common, so you can say, there are thousands of me out there- you can search it on facebook) it kind of kills the feeling of being special :P Also, it's a traditional name, so it's for old people. Maybe I should tell you my name is pronounced like Maria, just with a longer first "a"- Maaria. (It's a form of Mary, the most common christian name)
      Did it affect any choices? Not that I'm aware of. Since I never felt it "mine", I ignored it. Recently I talked about this with a friend who is sociologist, and she was shocked because I said- my name was supposed to make me boring. She apparently thought I was one of the most interesting people she knew :D
      • Aug 8 2011: Aha! Thank you!. Amazing how the pronunciation differs from language to language. A woman I know is named Marja, pronounced Mar Gee A (her mom loved, you got it, Marigolds... that's where I grabbed the reference, without thinking about it really) I think your friend is right - and how interesting as well - that your name from where I stand, IS very unique and special! So I can gather a little perspective from your post, that I hadn't thought of: how we feel about our names could change, if our geography changes... :) Great!
        • thumb
          Aug 14 2011: I've heard a story about a name today, thought you might like it (or at least find it interesting). My mom's friend is called Nada (Hope). But that was not her first name. She was a second daughter, and her mother decided it's time to stop the girls from being born, because she wanted a son, so she called her newborn Stanka (meaning: a pause). An older woman from the family didn't know that, and named the girl Nada. Her mother, out of respect for that older woman never told her the girl has already been named, so, for years, people called her Nada, and all the papers said Stanka. She changed her name legally to Nada when she was 16. And, yes, her mother later gave birth to a boy, she "paused" the girls :S
  • thumb
    Aug 6 2011: Wow, this is something I've been thinking about since I became aware of my name.
    I hated it ever since I was 4, and wanted to change it. My mother told me that if I change my name, it would be posted on some pannel, and published in newspapers, which I found too unpleasant...
    Now I'm sorry I didn't change it between highschool and college, because that is when I changed my circle of friends completely, and I wouldn't have to explain what I did.
    Why I don't like it? I don't really know... I never felt it was right, not at 4 yo, not at 24 yo. It's just outside of me. When I was a kid, I just found the name ugly, but later more rational reason appeared. Sometimes I even don't feel that people are talking to me, or it sounds really strange when they call my name.
    Who knows, maybe I'm just crazy :D Ore my parents made a biiiiiig mistake when they called me Marija :)
  • thumb
    Jul 16 2011: Hi Libbey a very good conversation.According to Islam(saying of prophet) an infants first right on their parrents is a good name. But I dont think it affects life of a person though good names are liked. I personaly never wanted to change my name maybe becuase I have liked it.Regards.
  • Jul 16 2011: Hi Harald!

    I appreciate your input. I am pulling together info from the resources I've found - and career path has been most common. I'm actually thinking I'd love to try to tie it into a social media database to compare the amount of "friends/followers" a person has, using at least to start census info re: the most popular names of an era. But I think I have to narrow my criteria. There are loads of variables - I'm trying to not to "assume" or prove a theory though - so it's still vague [too vague] and your response helped me see that.

    Maybe what I'm looking toward is: Usual [Common] vs Unusual [Uncommon] names... and the impact they have, if any, on happiness/fulfillment/and success as relative to those factors. Does our name lift us up, or bring us down, or neither. Is there a mean here? [Totally made up example: Of the x amount of people named Joey born in 1970 and who have FB accounts, 90% have 1000+ friends, and the common tags or keywords: happy, lucky, healthy, family, college, fishing]
    It's interesting to note that perception IS reality in some way regarding names, I agree. And what I wonder is does that conflict with the "namer's" intention? But I do assume naming in general has positive beginnings. To give a child a name is, I assume, an act of good will - that the name is given as a positive. There are of course those very uncommon names like: Michael Jackson's child whom he named "Blanket" etc. But why is it that we call attention to, or note that this uncommon name matters at all? This is where it becomes fuzzy for me. Is the impact of a name simply a reflection or sign of the times... meaning in a world of better tolerance and embraced diversity - do labels such as our names have less impact? And if so, how do I revise my question.
    I love this forum because it's immediately thought provoking. I think my initial question, may need revision, or at least better focus. And please, call me Cupcake. [Ha! Little jokey] Thanks again :) Libbey
    • thumb
      Jul 16 2011: Hi Cupcake !!!...lol
      I think there are 2 different things to consider.
      1) why does someone have the name he/she has ?
      2) How does the name one has influence his/her life ?
      As to 1) In Latin America for example, it's very common that kids get the name of the father or mother. External influence might play a role as well, such as names of famous people. Some names are just "in" at some point of time. When I started school, we had 7 Harald in a class of 25 or so. Today my name appears to be much less common. Sometime, the motivation of parents to give a particular name to their kid might even be beyond any comprehension. I already met people (an not only one) with the name of "Primitivo" and "Lesbia". Don't ask me what's going on in the head of a parent choosing such a name.
      as to 2) Well, we pay more attention to uncommon names because of just that....they are uncommon. It's like seeing a beetle and a Ferrari on the highway. Which would call more attention ?
      When looking at the impact of a name why not starting with yourself ? How do you feel about your name ? Do you think having a different name would make any change in your life ?
      As for my name, I feel pretty indifferent about it, although, sometimes I'd prefer another one because in Spanish speaking countries, my name is rarely pronounced properly. However, some people actually do care about there names, that's why they change them.
      How one feels about a particular name, probably also depends on associations. Perhaps you were bullied by a Dave when in school and now might find that the name Dave provokes bad feelings.
      You might want to check out this BBC article. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7312412.stm
      Cheers !
      • Jul 17 2011: Hi Harald ~ Great observations. I think I'm getting closer to revising the critera to get to the info I'm looking for. [loved that article - especially people's comments - very interesting] Moving forward, and based upon your input as well, below may be closer to what I want to ask. [I do think I can't be too global - and have to section by geography to take into account soci-economic variables]

        Revised Question
        How is quality of life and personal contentedness affected by whether or not we like our own name?
        Q&A TBD /This is rough:
        1] Personal feelings about one's own name [do not share name at this point]
        2] Describe your life now via agree/disagree questions about quality of life, relationships, and monetary stability
        3] If you are a parent or guardian, and have had children, whose names you chose, plz list your child's [or all children's] first name, or precisely, the name by which they are called [nickname if used in place of given name, as long as you nicknamed the child]
        4] What is your first name? what is your year of birth?
        5] Geographical data: USA time zone - what time zone where you A] born in? B] grow up in? C] currently reside in

        A successful life for my purposes is defined by the individuals own assessment.

        I want to know if they would refer to themselves as happy/loved/hopeful etc. [it's possible for instance to be monetarily successful & miserable] So - you've helped me zero in - this is potentially turning into a question about self-perception; not the name itself. [hope that makes sense]

        As for me - Libbey is a nickname for Elizabeth. I love the name Elizabeth, but it doesn't feel as tho it's MY name. I like my name, it suits me - didn't as a shy first & second grader - but in my case, being different by way of my name forced me out of my shell so to speak. Whether that was a good or bad thing - I'm not sure! ;) And the older I get, the more I'm called by other names, Mom for instance. [which is my favorite name, next to Cupcake!] LOL
        • thumb
          Jul 18 2011: Hi Libbey, funny, it's the first time that I see Libbey as a derivative of Elizabeth. Btw, concluding from your last name you seem to have German roots, correct ?
          I think it will be difficult to find correlations between name and a person's quality of life, unless you have a real huge sample size of people. There are just too many factors that can impact one's life and the name is (or is not) one that probably most people aren't even aware of.
          P.S. I'm still debating with myself whether I prefer to call you Libbey or cupcake....you see how difficult this naming issue is ?!?!....lol
      • Aug 5 2011: HA! You are FUNNY! I may have to legally change my name - but Cupcake is (in my opinion) better than Meatloaf anyway! Although, that is totally subjective - I'm sure there are lots of people who prefer Meatloaf... LOL

        The common thread I gather at this point, from your responses and others - is that this about culture, not language. Enlightening! And amazing how small and how big the world can be - depending on our point of view.

        And yes - you are totally correct. My last name does have strong German roots. Although, according to my grandfather, we are Austrian. His family immigrated to the US from Austria - his mother was only 15, married to 3rd cousin - who also shared the same last name as her maiden name, Koppinger. My grandfather was a brilliant man - I wish I knew more about his early life. I understand that the Germans & Austrians are often mistakenly considered to be "the same" - and that neither culture likes that very much. I don't know why - but to my grandfather, it was an important distinction. NOT for reasons that were in any way discriminatory - he was just a stickler for being correct in everything (an engineer & inventor by trade) - he said it was about being accurate in terms of learning about my heritage, but that really - we all come from the same planet. ;)
        • thumb
          Aug 5 2011: Hi Libbey, good to see you are back ;-)
          Good to know you have Austrian blood running inside you ! I'm Austrian myself. Yes, Austrians always insist in being Austrians and not Germans, although the cultural difference isn't that big. At the end, I agree with your grandfather, we are all from the same planet. In any case, geopolitical borders aren't forever anyway and what is one country today might belong to another country in the future.