Language & Culture

The Name Game

What’s in a name? This was the question posed by Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  The answer, surprisingly enough, is “more than you’d think.”  Research has shown a person’s name may be indicative of their socio-economic status and could also potentially influence their future success.  Polls show that classmates, teachers, and job recruiters form initial opinions of individuals based on their name.  In today’s Simply CSOFT, we’ll explore the name game and take a look at the connection between careers and common names.

Fred Jill James

A study looking at over 100 million international LinkedIn profiles turned up some surprising results.  For instance, in the United States, there is an unusual correlation between male CEO’s and 4-letter first names – such as Jack or Fred.  This was also found to be common among sales professionals, who commonly sport names such as Chip or Todd.  Frank Neussel, researcher and professor of classical and modern languages at the University of Louisville, explains this phenomenon: “Typically hypocorisms, the shorter form of a given name, are used in intimate situations as a nickname or a term of endearment. It’s possible that sales professionals in the U.S. and male CEOs around the world use these shortened versions of their name as a way to be more approachable and accessible to potential clients.”

On the other hand when studying top female CEO names, Deborah, Sally, Debra, and Cynthia topped the list.  In contrast to their male counterparts Neussel expounded: “Interestingly enough, female CEOs appear to prefer to use their full names and not nicknames, which could signify that they want to be taken more seriously and want co-workers to think of them in a more professional light.”

Related:  5 Key Steps Companies Overlook When Going Global

Continuing with the LinkedIn study results, below are top names in other top fields.

Top 10 Names in HR Worldwide:

  1. Emma
  2. Katie
  3. Claire
  4. Jennifer
  5. Natalie
  6. Amy
  7. Melanie
  8. Jill
  9. Heather
  10. Erin

 

Strikingly, all names on this list are stereotypically female.  This is due to the fact that certain fields, such as HR, teaching and nursing, are female-dominated so prominent names in those fields tend to be feminine. Likewise, other careers are male-dominated, like engineering.

Top 10 Names in Engineering Worldwide:

  1. Ravi
  2. Amit
  3. Vijay
  4. Rajesh
  5. Alexander
  6. Erik
  7. Rahul
  8. Jason
  9. Jeremy
  10. Matthew

In addition to the stereotypically male names, this list also hints at the changing ethnic makeup of certain careers.

Somewhat surprisingly, results from a study analyzing common lawyer’s names showed a group of 8 names that have dominated the field every decade since the 1800s:

Top 8  Common Lawyer’s Names:

  1. John
  2. Robert
  3. James
  4. David
  5. William
  6. Richard
  7. Thomas
  8. Joseph

So what’s in a name? Sometimes, it turns out, a career path.  Whether we like it or not, we are judged by others based on our names and possibly even led, to an extent, towards certain careers.  So if you find yourself in a dead-end job that gives you no joy, maybe you should just change your name.

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