"Kevin Is Not a Name — It's a Diagnosis!"

We’ve written extensively about the consequences of baby naming. The name you choose for your children can affect his “Google-ability” or even get you in trouble with the law. A new survey of 2,000 elementary school teachers in Germany finds that your children’s names may also affect how teachers perceive them (translation available here). An overwhelming majority of the teachers surveyed associate “traditional” names with positive character traits and non-traditional names with weak performance and bad behavior. The name Kevin has particularly negative connotations; as one teacher wrote, “Kevin is not a name — it’s a diagnosis!” Astrid Kaiser, who conducted the study, said, “The names with positive connotations are all traditional German ones. What this shows is that children from a working class or immigrant background are clearly being discriminated against.” (HT: Herbert Engels) [%comments]

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COMMENTS: 50


  1. Morley says:

    Well, can you really trust a study from a person named Astrid?

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  2. Brian says:

    I begged my wife to name our first born Ladainian, but we settled on Rory.

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  3. Tzipporah says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Kevin says:

    Wow… looks like I wont be studying in Germany any time soon…

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  5. brazzy says:

    I don’t think that most of the names with positive connotations are “traditional German” names as much as they’re names derived from classical education (i.e. Greek, Latin or Hebrew origins), whereas the names with negative connotations are derived from Hollywood movies and football players (apparently, “Kevin” had waves of popularity correlating strongly with the release of “Home Alone”, a stint of football player Kevin Keegan plaing in Germany, and Kevin Costner’s big movie hits).

    That’s the image teachers have in mind when they discriminate against such names: parents who name their kids after movie stars, and who are probably just as careless about raising them.

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    • Kevin P. W. says:

      are you saying that my parents are careless? [different kevin then any others posted on here]
      You can’t assume were all, and you can’t even assume that HALF of us are named after movie stars. Kevin is a commonly Celtic Name, and im Irish. My mother had never even heard of people such as Kevin Costner, or Kevin Bacon, until later on when I ironically introduced them to HER. so if your saying that more than 10% of this worlds kevins were named after movie stars, then you are most certainly and undeniably wrong.

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    • Kevin P. W. says:

      also, to comment on another thing you said. this name is “Derived” from holywood movies and football players? you are certainly WRONG. walk into ANY irish office, pub, or other common public place, and you’ll find at least 1 random guy named kevin who will also in fact, be irish. Kevin is a good name, forget any useless actors or football players, because it means Strong, and Manly. it is not the football players who make the name, its that the name fits them. I dont believe in all of this superstitious naming crap, but if you think that we have all been named after ators when obviously this article mentions nothing about actors, you sir, are wrong.

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      • Owl says:

        I do wonder though: do most Kevins talk in such intonations as “you sir, are wrong,” and is that a result of their being oppressed on some subtle level? Actually, most Kevins I know are pretty cool, albeit they live “unconventional” lives in some way.

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      • brazzy says:

        Calm down – this article and my comment are talking about the situation IN GERMANY where Kevin is a “foreign” name.

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  6. Charlotte says:

    I love that my name is the first example of a traditional name. Most people I come across in the US can’t even spell Charlotte.

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  7. kip says:

    “What this shows is that children from a working class or immigrant background are clearly being discriminated against.”

    Or… that kids from working class or immigrant backgrounds have a lower socioeconomic status, which decreases their likelihood of success in schooling.

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  8. Greg says:

    Tzipporah

    That’s because it is almost impossible to fire someone in Germany.

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  9. Psittakos says:

    It’s amusing to see “Kevin” singled out as one of the trashiest. It is a name of respectable-enough origin. There is a Saint Kevin, who is slightly better known than Saint Hubbins (the patron saint of quality footwear).

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  10. Kevin says:

    I’ve been called many things in my life, but this would be the first time anyone’s called me a inefficient problem child…

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  11. Caitlyn says:

    hmmm….. my parents gave all of us offbeat names, and we were pretty uniformly loved by our teachers. I’d want to look at naming trends in general in Germany, I think.

    Kip has an excellent point – is this causation or correlation?

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  12. tom says:

    Astrid Kaiser says that “Kevin” is a non-traditional name. I’m not from Germany, so, maybe that makes perfect sense over there.

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  13. Kirilius says:

    “What this shows is that children from a working class or immigrant background are clearly being discriminated against” – well, a kid’s name can clearly reveal an immigrant background but how does it suggest the “working class” of the parents?

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    • Nina says:

      Well, in Germany names such as Kevin or Dustin or Chantal or Mandy are strongly associated with being “white trash”. Similarly to people in the US called Shaneisha etc. are associated with being an African American on a certain social level in society.

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  14. German says:

    Most English-sounding names (Kevin, Tyler, Mandy, Cindy, etc) are taken off movies and television definitely signal lower-class status in Germany. Astrid, as a Swedish name, is actually pretty popular. When we named our son Felix, we were very conscious about class connotations, as at sine point, the name will be seen on a resume.

    I do think the same problem exists in the U.S. – Misty, Jamaal, Meisha – all names that are likely to get your resume screened out before you can ever set foot in the door.

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  15. di says:

    What this shows is that if you ask 2000 people a question, you will get at least one person saying something obnoxious.

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  16. Kevin says:

    Oh so it’s true

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  17. Gustavo says:

    I am in Chile. Here English and German names are “Nice and cool”, but when a poor family called its children “kevin” “jonathan” and “Shirley” could be discriminated them in 90%. However the family have inmigrants background, Jean Paul Edwards (England), Juan Cristobal Aristizabal (Spanish) Herman Kunstmann (German) have a “positive discrimination”….. fail.

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  18. Herbert says:

    @brazzy: Second that.

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  19. D says:

    Are we sure that certain personlity characterstics — passed on from parents to child — don’t vary as names get weirder and weirder?

    For example, at some point giving your kid an extrememely goofy or odd name is a bit narcissistic, imo.

    Weird names generally are probably given by parents who would score higher on the trait called openness.

    Might IQ vary.

    50% of the variation on most personality characteristics are due to genes.

    40-80% of the variation of IQ is due to genes.

    If weird naming tracks personality/intelligence in a non-random way, and these things are passed on, then you’d expect systematic differences in ratings.

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  20. not Hoga says:

    This is not confined to low SES. “Liam.” You know it’s just not going to end well.

    BTW, love the name Astrid. Can’t use it because my spouse said no ethnic names. Sigh.

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  21. Eric says:

    One of the first Germans I met was named Kevin, and undoubtedly from a middle-class family.

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  22. Kevin says:

    Adolf is worse.

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  23. Kate Joyner says:

    The Australian media would have a field day with the “Kevin diagnosis”… our Prime Minister (Rudd) as problem child! Now I think about it….

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  24. B says:

    as German is pointing out: in my opinion this has nothing to do with the fact that they are foreign names – it has to do that English names are mostly a lower-class phenomenon.

    There are simply no traditionalists in Germany which would name their child Kevin or Justin (there are hardly any ancestors with these names).

    You can replace these names with typical “black” names (like in the Freakonomics book, e.g. DeShawn and DeAndre) and ask yourself if this is really that different in the US.

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  25. Jessica says:

    Anglophone names are considered a sign of lower class parents in Sweden as well. We also have the phenomenon of the “Kevin” effect, along with the -y effect. (Any name ending in -y is considered tantamount to being born with an ASBO tatooed to your forhead). In Sweden, too, “Kevin”, specifically, is considered as naff as you can possibly get. Teachers will go “There are TWO Kevins in my class” – “You lucky sod, there are four in mine”.

    I am, myself, carrier of what is a perfectly ordinary name in England – where I live – but was a true mark of working class mum tastes when I grew up in Sweden.

    I think part of the predjudice comes from the idea that someone who picks an anglophone name from a -rather weak – film in an attempt to make their child “more special” thus ending up giving him the same name as 80% of all the other kids born on the same estate is probably not part of the brain reserves. The kind of people who smoke through pregnancy and feed their kids Angel Delight for supper.

    I don’t think the “foreign” bit comes into it in the way perceived: names like Mohammed or Mehmet does not give rise to the same connotations (at least in Sweden) because Mohammed’s and Mehmet’s parents have probably chosen what is for them a traditional name – so, goes the thinking: they aren’t trying to be “special” and can be any kind of parent. A “Kevin” parent though, will almost certainly guzzle Wkd and believe ketchup is one of your five a day.

    All the Kevins who got offended didn’t take into account that where _they_ live, the name is perfectly ordinary.

    This does not mean that there is not discrimination going on though – just that it is likely a different kind of discrimination than the article perceives it to be.

    You’d think that a teacher who – conciously or unconciously – perceives a child’s name as a mark of parental neglect would set aside more of their resources for that child. Instead, they resent them from the word go. Why?

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  26. Lilly says:

    It’s true about Kevins. My uncle is one. *shudder*

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  27. brazzy says:

    @D re weird names as narcissism: The German film “Keinohrhasen” has a wonderful joke based on that, a little girl of about 4 named Cheyenne Blue stating matter-of-factly “My mother is an actress – they’re not allowed to give their kids normal names”.

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  28. Kevin says:

    >All the Kevins who got offended didn’t take into account >that where _they_ live, the name is perfectly ordinary.

    >-Jessica

    Oh, I think most of us took it with a grain of salt instead of offense.

    If I was in an area where ‘foreign’ names really did set you up for discrimation, I’d probably imitate my grandfather Jurgen, who adopted the name John when he moved across the Atlantic.

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  29. Joanne says:

    I found this funny, but also…disturbing that a child’s name may affect how a teacher in Germany might perceive them. Teachers are to teach. Well, my older son Ryan sent this link me to me for a good laugh…as his brother is a ….”now control yourself”….Yep, a Kevin!!

    To brazzy & Herbert….People decide on names for their children for many reasons. I picked Ryan and Kevin for my Irish Grandmother. They are two great traditional names, well…at least here!! Also, my name which is traditional….probably won’t be back in style for quite awhile. haha! Everyone, be proud of you name! :)

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  30. gone says:

    hey guys, just think about germany. i am german. i know a kevin and he is a pretty smart marketing expert in germany. he has roots in the usa and dom. republic. so his name fits to him.

    the phenomen is that names like kevin, paris, sydney, steven sounds very artificial in a country like germany. especially that most of the parents have no english background or roots. i know… why do i need any roots of the orign of a name. i can call my child whatever i want.
    yes, of course but those germans who called their daughter shanti, shira or whatever maybe just had a nice holiday in india and nothing more common with the origin.
    for me as a german and father it sounds a bit wired and it sounds like the parents wants to express themselve and not find the right name for their child.

    when i was looking for the name of my daughter i was concerned about how the people will spell it, is this name to exotic, does ist sound stupid with my last name ( other german samples >>> shanti brummer, jimmy blue ochsenknecht… hahaha), is it fitting to me and my wives past, do we like it, we are looking for a name and not to use the child as a business card for creativity.

    a name is like a tattoo. mostly it stays for a live and parents behave like some stupid guys who are not thinking about their tattoo. parents behave the same and run into a studio and pic a tattoo/name after 10min…

    so whats the name of my daughter?

    >>>Anella<<< simple fitting to us, not too german ( we are not that stereotype and have different roots), not too exotique (we are creative enough and dont need our daughters name to show it), just fitting evan the orign is old english/ hawai.

    i think for me kevin is ok. take this:
    dick, bob, jim, …. dick langhans…hrrhrrrhrrr

    bye

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  31. Pete says:

    As a child of the 70s (US), Kevin is about as normal a name as there is to me, but it’s certainly not “traditional” even in America. How many Kevins over 50 do you know? It’s the 70s equivalent of all the Tylers, Kyles, Alexas, etc. that are overpopulating classrooms today, and those names definitely have a “trend stigma” with some. I know I shudder ever time I hear of another kid with those names. So it’s not a leap to me to think that Kevin could have the same issue today in another country.

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  32. Kevin Bauer says:

    my names kevin and im jewish, germans are out to get me!!!

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  33. Jane says:

    It’s a common name in Ireland, derived from the Irish name Caoímhin (anybody hear of St Kevin of Glendalough?) and is also common in Britain. I’m astonished to hear that it might get a child in trouble in Germany!
    I wonder how a child with one of the traditional Irish names (e.g Conor, Niall, GrAinne, Aoife, Gobnait etc) would fare in a German classroom so!

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  34. Kevin says:

    Kevin is the English translation of the Irish name Chaomhin. Get it Right, if you don’t have anything positive to say then don’t say it…and they say I am negative for having the name ? My word !

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  35. Berlinian says:

    Oh, Conor, Niall, GrAinne, Aoife, Gobnait would be great in germany – because, up to now, it’s absolutely rare in germany and sounds somewhat medieval and mysterious and we germans get enthusiastic about it!

    the “problem” with names like kevin etc. is the general perception that, as it has already been pointed out in the discussion, these names are attributed to children coming from lower-class-backgrounds. these names are not necessarily of english origin, the application of french names can even by more revealing, especially when you listen to the respective (german) parents pronouncing them: this makes jacqueline a “sha-kke-leen-e” and chantal a “shann-tal”. whereas names like lara, hannah, charlotte, sophie, aron, konrad and jonathan are currently “upper-class-connotated”…

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  36. Kevin says:

    I personally like my name. I know many other Kevins and they don’t seem to dislike their names and they aren’t discriminated against or anything either. It sounds like a strong name like you wouldn’t want to mess with someone named Kevin. I like that.

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  37. Paul Radtke says:

    I’m from brazil and live in Germany since 2003, and I can tell one thing about the name Kevin that the study won’t tell, it’s already a sign of an immigrating family trying to disguise itself in the new country.

    Keven (with an E) is a somewhat common/traditional turkish name, but like most turkish names it’s not listed on the “naming list” of the German burocrats, so if a turkish family decides to name their son Keven, they have to settle for Kevin, it sounds alike, is “cool”, and for the family and turkish friends it is still Keven.

    So the discrimination is indeed present, but I believe it would occur if the kid had an other name (I believe such a teacher would be a bit offended if a turkish child was called Bismarck or Maximillian).

    And, just to complete the whole spectrum of the theme, Chantal, Jaquelin and even Marilyn became very popular names among former-DDR (East Germany) inhabitants, and they are also looked down in the west part of the country.

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  38. CandyKay says:

    In Denmark, the stigma name is Brian.

    “You’re such a Brian!” is a way of saying, “You’re a low-class jughead.” Or troublemaker. Brian Nielsen, the heavily-tattooed Danish boxer, has contributed to this perception.

    Names with “y” on the end are also considered problematic – “Jimmy”, “Tommy,” “Bobby,” etc. There’s a legend about a schoolteacher meeting her new class on the first day of school, and saying “All you boys with a Y on the end of your name – I don’t want any trouble from you!”

    “Kenneth” is also considered a very embarrassing name, as is “Alan.”

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  39. D Nice says:

    Just another pointless survey from a magazine (and country) with too much access to the wider media…. come on, is this even debateable? from the country that bought us:
    Adolf, Fritz, Hans, Gertude, Ludwig, Brunhilde, Astrid, Rudolf, Elfriede, Ninja, Otto, Guido, Siegfried, Hedwig, Sieghilde, Beate…
    And the list can go on and on and on

    What about Obama Hussein Barack? Wonder what would have happened if he grew up in Germany… well let’s not go there!!

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  40. Elisa says:

    I’ve dated four men named Kevin. all four were cruel. I agree, Kevin is a diagnosis for lack of character.

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  41. Kevin.S says:

    Damn, thank god i dont live in germany :P

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  42. Ian M says:

    I disagree. Kevin got Winnie Cooper.

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  43. Marandi Sohrada says:

    I really think it is a pity that a great country such as Germany can judge a person by his/her name. I have a son called Kevin, currently studying in Germany and I truly hope he is not subject to this type of abuse. His grandparents and great grandparents are all from Germany and I am sure that people who judge my son for being called Kevin should think twice. How would you feel if your name is not a name but a diagnosis!! Liebe grusse Marandi Sohrada

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  44. Kevin John Braid says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA i can confirm this is true, also POTATO

    Kev

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