Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names…..

I recall a chapter of the fascinating book ‘Freakonomics’ which studied the correlation between Christian names and social status. The authors of Freakonomics (Levitt is a statistician & Dunbar a journo) looked at the statistical correlation between an individuals Christian-name and their chances at success in life and conversely the chances of ending-up in the slammer or in the poor-house. Cultural aberrations.

The premise was 'does a name matter'?

A different sort of social-study on the effect a Christian name can have was undertaken in the U.K recently by Warner Home Videos which polled 2000 Brits asking-them for their Scariest Christian Name.

The results of which indicate perception it appears - is everything.

Along with my own reasoning as to why these names were likely picked [in brackets] The Top 10 list of Superstitious Names coming-out of Britain were:

1) Damien [Omen Films]
2) Myra [Moor Murders Myra Hindley]
3) Carrie [Stephen King book and film]
4) Rosemary [Rosemarys Baby a 60’s film by Roman Polanski
5) Judas [Jesus so-called betrayer]
6) Adolf [Popular in German-speaking countries until 1945]
7) Pandora [Don’t open her box whatever you do!]
8) Regan [Linda Blair played Regan in The Exorcist]
9) Samara [Was that goth-looking girl in Jap horror The Ring]
10) Boris [no bloody idea]

The heavy influence movies have in deciding ‘what is scary name?’ is evident, although perhaps because it was a movie company behind the polling may have influenced the thinking of those answering?

The likely-fact a movie can influence an individuals perception to this degree is a frightening enough realisation in itself and an indictment on the gullibility of people.

There also appears to be a sad-lack of historic references in the list. Myra and Adolf being the only non-fictional characters [NB: The jury is out on Judas Iscariot]

If one were to pick an evil-doer from Greek mythology surely Pandora was never a A-List evil-doer like say Medusa? For what it' worth I can't ever remember meeting a Pandora nor a Medusa anyway.

So it’s interesting stuff indeed delving into the human psyche and how a name can be deemed inherently 'bad' without any substantive-evidence to back it-up or at best a throw-away reference to a 25 year-old movie.

Moving from this theme, the question I would like to pose is: are all Otago babies named David instantly damned, or whisked silently from their cradles at Dunedin Hospital at midnight by German aupairs resembling shot-putters?

Given what we know constitutes a scary name I’m also going to suggest that Hollywood is about to curse the name Leslie with the imminent release of a film about Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten (trailer below) The title is enough to do-the-trick on it’s own.




PS: As a side-issue Michael Laws has dubbed the term 'Silly First Name Syndrome' correlating the high number of New Zealand criminals & victims of crime (often their family) who have weird Christian names (google it) The ODT also highlighted this synergy here.

1 comment:

Eric Olthwaite said...

Silly First Name Syndrome was a Whaleoil invention, not Michael Laws