What Children’s Names Say to Teachers about Children and Their Mothers

Katie Hopkins is making waves in Ireland with a new book called The Class Book of Baby Names, which describes the personality characteristics that often accompany popular names.

I thought it might be interesting to highlight some of the book’s findings which should be relevant to North Americans teachers who are calling roll and getting first impressions of their new students; and to North American expectant parents who are thinking about what to name their babies.

Below I am quoting from a recent article in the Irish Examiner written about Katie Hopkins and her new book by Caroline Delaney. I want to point out that some of the names which have an unruly, lower-class image in Ireland may not have the same image in North America. For that reason I will only use quotes which mention a small number of Irish names which come across in pretty much the same way in North America and Ireland:

“A child’s name is the first impression you have. That impression is usually validated by the mother standing behind it. It isn’t just the child’s name, is it? It is the manner in which its mother yells it across the playground,” Hopkins says.

Hopkins is scathing about the name Ashlee: “Show me an Ashlee. I will show you a large mum in leggings and with a [large U.K. discount chain] bag twice the size of her latest baby.”

A few teachers interviewed for this piece declined to be named, but said they had preconceptions about names. Many of the names they listed as potential troublemakers were altered spellings of more typical names. Poor Kacee, Brandii and Ashlee may be lovely girls, but they have to work extra hard to prove it to some teachers.

When pressed further, these teachers said they feared that parents who broke with tradition in naming their children would also bend rules on drop-off times, neatness and homework.

As it happens one of the questions I am often asked is what I think about names with unique spellings (like Brandii). The first thing that comes to mind is that parents who pick those names seem to think that having a “unique name” will make their children “unique individuals,” as if by magic. I also mention the inconvenience and bother of having a name that is rarely spelled right and often mispronounced. To the tell the truth, I don’t usually say that a name like Kacee, Ashlee or Brandii is a tell-tale sign of lower social class. Why? It’s a comment that’s likely to create bad feelings (because it’s often true). That’s why Hopkin’s book is making waves in Ireland.

One reason I’m so interested in this subject is that back in 1990 I wrote I wrote a pioneering book called The Baby Name Personality Survey based on a large-sample survey conducted by co-author Barry Sinrod that provided research-based personality profiles for 1,400 popular names. Although the profiles mentioned names that created an aristocratic image (like Montgomery) and names that created a blue-collar image (like Arnie) we carefully avoided anything that might come across as “hurtful” (to the extent possible).

I’ve retitled that book several times over the years. Much of the survey information is now available in a The 5-Star Baby Name Advisor, which uses the research to suggest names that could benefit your child and names that could be a hindrance. Needless to say, characteristics of names that are likely to be a hindrance include: names which create negative impressions, names that are difficult to spell and names that are hard to pronounce.

One thought on “What Children’s Names Say to Teachers about Children and Their Mothers

  1. Pingback: “Everyone is Obsessed With Baby Names” in Glasgow, Scotland | Bruce Lansky Baby Names in the News

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