A while back we held a contest for the new popular economics book written by Uri Gneezy and John List. The authors and their publishers picked some of their favorite title suggestions and then we ran a beauty contest to determine which title was most popular among blog readers. The deal was that the person who proposed the winning title would get $1,000. Another $1,000 was to be split between randomly selected beauty contest participants.
Before I tell you which title won, let me tell you about the naming of Freakonomics. We had such an impossibly hard time coming up with a good name until my sister Linda came up with “Freakonomics.” To make a long story short, the publishers hated that name for a long time, but finally gave in. The rest is history. Of course we were all just guessing — it would have been nice to have data, the way Uri and John did.
So what do the data say? The winner of the beauty contest, with 33 percent of the votes, was The Carrot that Moved A Mountain: How the Right Incentives Shape the Economics of Everyday Life. Congratulations to Ivy Tantuco who proposed that title and collected the $1,000 prize.(Congratulations also to Jenna Dargie and Melinda Reiss, who were the randomly chosen beauty contest winners and pocketed $500 each.) Read More »
How illiterate do our politicians think we are?
In the old days we had plain titles of laws, such as the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act. In the United Kingdom, the titles of laws still reflect their subjects, whether the Official Secrets Act or the National Health Service Act. The modern U.S. Congress, as the least trusted institution in America, is particularly prone to these propaganda titles. Thus, modern Americans, instead of universal, government-funded healthcare, get government-funded propaganda: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Read More »
As we’ve argued in Freakonomics and in a recent podcast, a child’s first name isn’t nearly as influential on that child’s outcome as many people would like to think.
That said, it would be a mistake to say that a name is unimportant — especially because even the belief that a name is important can make it, on some level, actually important.
Also: a name can carry far greater significance than as a mere label for an individual person; it can say something about you as a member of a tribe, a community, a nation.
A noteworthy (if often overlooked) part of Jewish history is the renaming, in the Bible, of Abram as Abraham and Sarai as Sarah. Along those lines, it was interesting to read this blog post from the Israel State Archives about how David Ben-Gurion wanted Israelis to swap out their European names for Hebrew ones. Read More »
This piece on baby names by Drew Magary made me laugh out loud. I sent it to my wife, and she laughed so hard she cried.
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.”Read More »
New research by Jochen E. Gebauer and two co-authors, summarized in the BPS Research Digest, analyzed data from a German dating website and found that an unpopular name will lessen your chances of getting a date in the online dating universe:
The main finding here was that people with unfashionable names like Kevin or Chantal were dramatically more likely to be rejected by other users (i.e. other users tended to choose not to contact them). A user with the most popular name (Alexander) received on average double the number of contacts as someone with the least popular name (Kevin) … However, the researchers also found that people with unpopular names were more likely to smoke, had lower self-esteem and were less educated. What’s more, the link between the popularity of their name and these life outcomes was mediated by the amount of rejection they suffered on the dating site – as if rejection on the site were a proxy for the amount of social neglect they’d suffered in life.
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.”
t’s time for the annual Name of the Year contest. The 2008 winner, Destiny Frankenstein, is still our favorite, but there are some strong contestants this year. Among them: Sanmorteeno Battle, Yolanda Supersad, and Dr. Loveday Conquest. Cast your vote here. Read More »