Bad News for People With Hard-to-Pronounce Names

If you have one of those names that people are always struggling to pronounce, we have some bad news for you. 

A new paper (ungated version here) by Simon M. Laham, Peter Koval, and Adam L. Alter finds that an easy name may confer advantages. The authors conducted five studies comparing easy- and hard-to-pronounce names (like Vougiouklakis or Leszczynska, for example): "Studies 1–3 demonstrate that people form more positive impressions of easy-to-pronounce names than of difficult-to-pronounce names." While the first three studies focused on surnames, a fifth study analyzed both the first and last names of lawyers within law firms and found that "lawyers with more easily pronounceable names occupied superior positions within their firm hierarchy ... The effect was independent of firm size, firm ranking, or mean associate salary."

Is It Time to Start a Strange Name Hall of Fame?

We should probably start a Strange Name Hall of Fame at some point to chronicle all the weird, wonderful, terrible names that readers have passed along to us since we first wrote about names in Freakonomics. This one, from Joyce Wilson, would probably make the cut:

I thought of Freakonomics when I was at a St. Louis area grocery store and saw cut-out paper snowflakes taped to the window with the makers' names on them. The name I particularly noticed? Demonica.

Levitt's reply when he saw this e-mail: "Perhaps the little girl’s mother is just a heavy metal fan."

Call Me Bruce

Women in the legal profession with more masculine-sounding names, like Cameron or Kelly, have better odds of becoming judges than women with feminine names, according to a new study by Bentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin (gated; abstract here).

FREAK Shots: The George Foremans

George Foreman named all five of his boys after himself, but only one has taken up pro boxing. I met the retired boxer and "grillionaire" at his son's pro debut last Saturday. George III won, but in a bout that some say looked rather unevenly matched.

Fun With WolframAlpha

The jury's still out on whether WolframAlpha.com will turn into a tool that is useful to solve real world computational problems, but it certainly is fun to play with.

Winner, Loser, and Marijuana Pepsi

Winner became a lifetime criminal; Loser a detective in the NYPD. The story of these two brothers matched the findings of my academic research with Roland Fryer, which found no impact of a child's name on her life.

Choosing the Name of the Year

| The proprietors of the Name of the Year contest “can’t imagine topping last year’s death struggle between Destiny Frankenstein and Spaceman Africa.” But these are hopeful times. They’ve collected and verified 64 of the weirdest names they could find. They’re now taking your votes for a winner. (HT: MJS) [%comments]

Batman, Hurt by Slumping Oil Prices, Lashes Out

The mayor of the oil-producing town of Batman,Turkey, says he’ll sue Warner Bros. for taking the name of his town for its caped crusader without permission. He hopes to win a cut of the royalties from this year’s Christopher Nolan hit, The Dark Knight. Even if the case never goes to trial, the free publicity […]

Palin “Going Rogue”

When I read the CNN.com headline that Sarah Palin was “going rogue,” I thought the quote was meant in admiration. It turns out the story is wholly negative, and “going rogue” is a bad thing. That is not what my sister Linda told me when she gave me the moniker the “rogue economist.” She told […]

Jennifer Hudson’s Family Tragedy

Not that far from where I live, Jennifer Hudson‘s mother and brother were murdered this weekend. My deepest sympathies go out to the Hudson family. Jennifer Hudson is a local girl who made it big against all odds. Last month I was talking to a photographer who had just done a photo shoot with her, […]