"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]


Morley

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

Brian

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

Tzipporah

Do you really want to get into the issue of Germans and "tradition"? This is the same country that requires a handwriting sample so they can psychoanalyze you before a job interview...

Kevin

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

brazzy

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.

Charlotte

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.

kip

"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.

Greg

Tzipporah

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

Psittakos

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).

Kevin

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

Caitlyn

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?

tom

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

Kirilius

"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?

German

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.

di

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

Kevin

Oh so it's true

Gustavo

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.

Herbert

@brazzy: Second that.

D

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.

not Hoga

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.