Does a Baby’s Name Affect Its Chances in Life? (Part 1)

I just read a long article by William Kremer of BBC News about a fascinating topic: Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life?

I’m going to make this quick and easy for you. The first part of the article discusses Dalton Conley, a sociologist who named his daughter E and invited her to pick any “E”-name she wanted. Her name wound up being E Harper Nora Conley. Conley also gave his son free reign and his son picked the name Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Conley. This experience motivated Dalton Conley to find oout how a baby’s name affects the child’s chances in life. Here’s Conley’s conclusion, according Kremer:

Conley, who is a sociologist at New York University, says that children with unusual names may learn impulse control because they may be teased or get used to people asking about their names. “They actually benefit from that experience by learning to control their emotions or their impulses, which is of course a great skill for success.”

But for the main part, he says, the effect of a name on its bearer rarely amounts to more than the effect of being raised by parents who would choose such a name.

Think about that last sentence. The child’s chances in life are affected more by the parents (who pick the child’s name) than by the name itself. And you can tell some things about parents by the name they picked.

-In the case of the Conley kids, the fact that they had parents who let them pick their own names was a key fact.

-In the case of North West, the fact that she had a dad who came up with a jokey name while conversing with comedian Jay Leno on the “Tonight Show” and then stuck with that name despite negative feedback from the media and from his own fans.

-In the case of Frank and Adelaide Gail Zappa, the fact that they came up with four highly controversial and widely disliked names including:
*Ahmet Emmuukah Rodan
*Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen
*Moon Unit

Apparently, the names parents choose for their children speaks volumes about them.




By William Kremer

BBC World Service


“Every Generation’s Baby Names Are the Refuse of Terrible Literature”

After spending almost a week in California (and not writing any new blog posts), I decided to get back to work and write some new posts. Just after writing yesterday’s post about Daenerys and Khaleesi, I read Alexandra Petri’s Wa Po article titled “Never mind Khaleesi” which puts fictional name fads into a historical context.

So, I’m suggesting you give it a read. I found it fun, even though I disagreed with Petri about a few names:

-When Petri writes: “Well, it can’t get worse than that horrible Edward/Jacob/Bella Twilight situation a year or so back,” and then it does.” I think she’s referring to the inordinate popularity of Jacob, Bella and Edward rather than their quality as names. I think all three are fine names, though Jacob is still a top-ten boy’s name, so I’d avoid it for that reason.

-I enjoyed Petri’s comment about Paisley, “This is like naming your child Terrible Tie Pattern or Ugly Scarf.” I like Paisley as a name for girls(because I remember wearing paisley ties in the 60s and liking them). Unfortunately, Northern Ireland’s Ian Paisley is an awful namesake.

-Petri prefers Paris to Londyn but not if you’re going to spell it Parys. In my view, Londyn and other names that substitute “y”s for other vowels invite people to misspell the name and make the child wish her parents had been more considerate.

-Petri also had some good news: “Baby Anastasias stayed relatively stable in the years following the publication of 50 Shades of Grey, and the number of Baby Christians actually went DOWN from 2011 to 2012. And, in better news, this is the first year Adolph did not chart!

-Petri complained about parents’ disinclination to spell Zachary (or even Elvis) properly. I agree completely.

-And finally, I love this comment from Petri about baby names:” Every generation’s baby names are the refuse of terrible literature. It is a tradition of long standing.”




Mike Myers’ Baby Daughter Was Born on Friday, So He Named Her Sunday Molly.

I’m not the best-informed guy when it comes to Hollywood gossip. Truth is, I haven’t seen a photo of Mike Meyers since he was cracking me up in “Wayne’s World” and then he starred as Austin Powers, back in the 90s. So I wasn’t prepared to read about him having a second baby. But even though his L.A. Times headshot isn’t particularly goofy, he made me smile again when he and wife Kelly named the baby daughter born on Friday, Sunday Molly.

I was surprised that Nardine Saad of the L.A. Time’s “Ministry of Gossip” didn’t get the scoop on how Mike and Kelly came up with the name. I suspect Myer’s daughter may wind up being called Molly. But if her name puts a smile on the faces of people she meets, it’ll work out just fine for her.







Surprise: Game of Thrones Fans are Naming Daughters Daenerys and Khaleesi (as Well as Arya)

It’s no surprise that Game of Thrones fans are making Arya a fast-rising name. Last year more than 700 Throne’s fans gave that name to their own daughters in 2012, according to What is surprising is that Thrones fans would also name their daughters Daenerys and Khaleesi because both names will be difficult to spell and pronounce for anyone who is not a Throne’s fan. So daughters given those names are likely to grow up hating them.

Arya sounds like Aria (a solo vocal piece with instrumental music from an opera) and won’t be completely mystifying to the uninitiated. But Daenerys and Khaleesi (a name I’ve already misspelled 3 times in the process of writing this article)  are likely to confuse and mystify anyone who’s not a big fan of show. The increasing popularity of those impractical and burdensome names demonstrates just how far parents can be influenced by the effect of a popular TV show, movie or book. (Though I’m happy to say that only 21 baby girls were named Daenerys in 2012.)

Another suddenly popular name, Katniss (the protagonist of the Hunger Games) is also likely to confuse anyone not familiar with the book or movie.Unfortunately, Katniss sounds like catnip. Parents who get swept along by their strong feelings for fictional characters can be helped by spouses, partners, friends and relatives willing to call their attention to the practical realities of living with names that are likely to be misunderstood and mangled by most people who read or hear them.

Dear Bruce: Do You Often Hear “It’s in the Bible” as a Justification for an Awful Name?

Dear Bruce,

Do you often hear “It’s in the Bible” as a justification for an awful name? A relative of mine named a daughter Tierza Joy. Tierzah is a biblical name. What do you think of it?


Dear B.P.,

“It’s in the Bible” is used as a justification for good names and awful names every day of the week! Some of the best names ever and the worst names ever are “in the Bible.”

Tirzah (not Tierzah) has a Hebrew origin and means “she is my delight.” In the Bible, Tirzah is the name of one of Zelophehad’s five daughters who went to Moses to ask for their rights of inheritance, which he granted. Nice story! But saying a name is “in the Bible” is a dubious honor. Zelophehad, the name of Tirzah’s father, is also in the Bible. Jumping Jehosaphat! (also a biblical name) what an awful name.

Although Tierzah (or its root name, Tirzah) is a “strange” name that will be confusing to spell and pronounce, combining it with Joy as the middle name turns it into a private joke. “Tears o’ joy, get it?” her parents will say, smiling as they let friends and relatives in on the joke.

But friends and relatives might not think the name is quite so funny. They may have watched Kanye West on the “Tonight Show” mentioning to Jay Leno that he was thinking of naming his daughter North (West). The audience smiled nervously as they wondered whether West was just kidding or if he was really insensitive enough to give that joke name to his daughter. Turns out, he was. And the joke turned out to be on Kim and Kanye for picking the name that was voted “the worst celebrity name of 2013.” Unfortunately, the joke was also at baby North’s expense, because she’ll have to live with it.

Likewise, the name Tierzah Joy is also likely to make friends and relatives uncomfortable because the “joke” is initially at the expense of the baby girl, who is likely to be embarrassed by the name as soon as she is old enough to know what “embarrassment” means. She’ll want to change her name. Happily, her middle name, Joy, gives her a lovely fall-back name. But she might be so mad at her parents she throws both names out and starts over as Abcde (pronounced AB-seh-dee). Which is why using a name to document your wit is not a recommended baby-naming strategy. At first, the joke may be at the expense of the child. But eventually it may wind up also being at the expense of the oh-so-funny parents.






Drew Magary Proves that American Baby Names Are Getting Even Worse


Here’s a small sample of names Drew Magary found in a recent issue of Parents magazine. Readers were asked what they would name their next baby boy or girl. Here are just a few of the names Drew Magary went off on.

First, some boys’ names: 

Jaydien That’s right. Jaydien. Don’t forget that I. That I is what sets young Jaydien apart from the mere Jaydens of the world. Now don’t you people who named your kid Jayden feel behind the times? You bought the beta version of that name. It’s like buying an iPad too early. Six years from now, the name will have morphed into Jayydizzosoian, and then you’ll really feel like a sucker.

Tulsa If you’re gonna name your kid after a place, at least have the common courtesy to name him after a legitimate tourist destination. No one wants to hang out with a kid named Tulsa, or a kid named Kalamazoo. Ol’ Kal. Always gettin’ in trouble.

Zaiden Of course Zaiden is here. It takes Jayden and throws a Z in front, which makes it SO STRONG. God, I just wanna slap a loincloth on little Zaiden and club dragons with him. Be on the lookout for Drayden, Fayden, Waiden, Strayden, and Klayden coming to your hood.

Zebulon Classic hillbilly, with the bonus of sounding like a cartoon alien planet.

Then some girls’ names:

Annyston Joined by brother Schwymmir

Brook’Lynn The abuse of apostrophes in names has to end. A reasonable person should be able to know, by looking at a name, when one syllable ends and another begins. But no, [some people] all over the country have to be like “I’ll name him Raw’Bert.” You stop that. Give me some credit for being able to read even if you can’t.

• Luxx Why not add that third x and fulfill her destiny? That’s what you want, right? You want little Luxx to grow up, move to the Valley and earn $60 a week getting jet spraykakke’d for a series of Brazzers short films, yes? There’s no other reason to name your child Luxx.

Sharpay This is a character from High School Musical. It’s also a breed of dog. Why stop there? Name your child Dobyrman.

And his close:

There are so many more horrible names on the list: Tayzia, Xylethia, Kayson, Mayson, Kayleen—it goes on and on and on. I wish I could tell you there’s an end to this, that writing your local Congressman to draft laws preventing this kind of child abuse from happening would do the trick. But I can’t. It won’t. Our fate is sealed, not unlike that of poor Luxx. Luxxx. Luxxxx’Ann. God help us all.

Click on the link, above, and read the whole article on Deadspin. It’s seriously funny; read it all.

An Open Letter to About The Most Bizarre Name, Zzyzx

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for writing me about Zzyzx. I think the research you collected about the “most bizarre” name was interesting from the standpoint of using bizarre names to gain attention for your website. However, I seriously doubt that “real baby name experts with a passion for onomnastics” are interested in finding out whether the most bizarre name is Zzyzx, Abcde or Nimrod. I think there are a lot more interesting and important questions to investigate. By spending time and money on consumer research to find the most bizarre name you trivialize your “baby name experts” and the value of your website to parents.

I can imagine 15 clowns driving to work in a Smart Fortwo auto and piling out at your front door. They agree that Zzyzx is the most bizarre name but debate whether Abcde or Nimrod is the second most bizarre name. Good luck in finding someone who takes the work of your onomnastics experts seriously.

Bruce Lansky
Baby Names in the News

P.S. I just got back from a trip to sunny southern California. Suddenly the snow is gone from Minnesota roads and golf courses. I haven’t written a new post in about a week. I hope you don’t mind me having a little fun at your expense. If you’re serious about wanting some tips about what you should be researching and writing about instead of discovering “the most bizarre name,” here are a few ideas: What motivates a parents to give their babies bizarre names like Zzyzyx, Nimrod or Abcde? Should bizarre names like these be banned? If not, do people see them as a form of child abuse? If so, what kind of court-ordered “counseling” should the parents who gave their babies these names receive?


From: Dennis van Rooij Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2014 2:38 PM

Subject: Zzyzx voted the most bizarre real baby name

Hi Bruce,

My name is Dennis van Rooij and I’d like to let you know about an article we at eBabyNames have been working on. We wanted to investigate what people think is the worst baby name of the last fifteen years. There are a lot of lists about the worst celebrity baby names, but how good (or bad) are American parents themselves when it comes to picking a baby name? We compiled a list of strange names from the past 15 years and asked 1,500 people to let us know what they considered the most strange name and why. We also asked them if they know people with strange names themselves that might not have been on our list.

We were able to find the top ten strangest baby names and found that, while everyone agreed on the number one name, there was a difference between men and women and between the Western and Eastern part of the US.

You can read the full article here:

I hope you like the article. Maybe you could share your opinion on the article or give us some tips for future articles?


eBabyNames is a team of name experts and web designers. eBabyNames is a website built to help expectant parents find the best baby names. Unlike many websites, our database of names was created by real name experts with a great passion for onomastics, the study of names and their backgrounds. As a result, we proudly offer a selection of the finest baby names accompanied by accurate and complete background info.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

With kind regards,

Dennis van Rooij