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Ben Dover and Other Names You Should Avoid Giving Your Children

Ben Dover and Other Names You Should Avoid Giving Your Children

Anyone who is plagued with an unfortunate name sounding even remotely similar to an anatomical designate or physiological function (e.g. Dick Moore) knows the pain that school-age ridicule and cheap shots have brought forth. Children, as we all know, can be immensely cruel, and will find any reason to twist a perfectly ordinary name to resemble something crude or unpleasant. And then there are those names that feel like a true curse consigned from careless, oblivious, or truly twisted parents, like the New Jersey couple who named their extremely unfortunate son Adolph Hitler Campbell, who will no doubt inhabit a world of profound pain unless he gets his name changed real fast. However, beyond the unpleasantness, a bad name could be simply something to rise above, or something that is an out-and-out curse.

According to a recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a bad name (whether it is your last or first, or both) can serve as a critical social stigma for years after adolescence. The research, which mined data from 12,000 adults, concluded that an “unfortunate” first name alone may significantly impact and inhibit relationship development into adulthood, and may even increase one’s likelihood to be a smoker (sounds somewhat random, I know). Data gathered from nearly 12,000 adult participants found that a bad first name can not only ruin your self-esteem, but it may actually make you lonelier, antisocial, and just a bit less intelligent. “Negative names evoke negative interpersonal reactions, which in turn influence people’s life outcomes for the worse,” the study said. The trend across all sub-experiments, which drew on 11,813 adults, indicated those with “unfortunate” first names were generally more likely to smoke, be less educated and have lower self-esteem than those whose names were attractive.

So it is difficult to know what the takeaway is from all of this. The research, while somewhat extensive, seems a bit circumstantial and maybe wholly unnecessary, as anyone with an unfortunate name could tell you that life is infinitely more difficult if your name is Ima Hogg, rather than Mandy Moore. If Negative names do evoke negative interpersonal reactions, what does this say about the inherent rigidity of our society? How are we able to celebrate someone named Justin Bieber, but not Tim Burr, or Doug Hole? Is a simple name really as powerful and impactful as the research would suggest?

Read more: Babies, Children, Family, Parenting at the Crossroads, , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
11:09AM PST on Nov 21, 2012

There are a lot of crimes committed at the christening font!

5:50AM PDT on Oct 31, 2012

Thanks for sharing.

10:38PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

I like Moon Unit Zappa's name. Not a fan of her brother's name, Dweezil. Grace Slick named her first kid God (Didn't take her long to change it, though, what with the public outrage over the it.). Miso Solly must be one of the awfullest names in existence.

1:38AM PDT on May 15, 2012

A friend of mine called her son David, thinking the worst anyone could do was to call him Dave. With the surname Wright, all his friends call him Lefty.We gave our son a traditional Irish name, Oisín and his gandfathers' names, John and Francis, so he could use either of those if he got tired of telling people how to pronounce it.
Even we now call him Oz.

2:20PM PDT on May 14, 2012

When naming a child, one must also take into consideration what the child's initials say. Kids are brutal on initials as well.

4:49PM PDT on May 10, 2012


7:17AM PST on Feb 4, 2012


8:52AM PST on Jan 30, 2012

interesting. thanks for the article.

11:09AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

@Jane L: I remember hearing about the kid named "Adolph Hitler". He got taken away from his family, and many thought it was because of his name. The parents were under investigation for child abuse and all the children were taken away under they could figure out if there was a child abuse. No one would have cared if his name was just "Adolph" but since the name "Hitler" was applied to the child as a second name(Middle name), many were focused on that part instead of the rest of the article. He had siblings named after several commanding Nazi officers too.

11:02AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

really? someone named their kid adolph hitler? wow...

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