I just read a fascinating article in Atlantic Monthly about the importance of names. The article predicted the success of an individual on the basis of their name.
It’s not the first time I’ve read about names. In these studies, names that are familiar and comfortable—in other words conventional names associated with the dominant culture—lead to individuals getting hired, receiving promotions and, in general, being socially acceptable. Unusual names, names that confuse or confound, sometimes take people out of the running for a job—before they’ve been given an interview! One statement in the Atlantic article jumped out at me—a Jamal might have to work eight years longer than a Greg to get a promotion!
My personal experience with names is unusual. My given name is Candida. No, it is not Candace, nor is it the nation Canada. Candida is one of those confusing names that cause people to pause. Every year on the first day of school I dreaded the look that came across my new teacher’s face during roll call. I was shy and it was embarrassing. For most of my life I’ve been known as Candy. As Candy, I don’t spend as much time spelling my name or explaining that “Candida” is a play by George Bernard Shaw.
Candy, although it is not as “perfect” as Emily or Marie, is familiar, comfortable and, setting aside stripper nicknames, comes with positive associations. It’s not as serious as the literary Candida, but most people feel good when I say my name is Candy.
I put a great deal of thought into the creation of characters’ names, taking into consideration ethnicity, age and family background. I think the stats about Greg and Jamal may find their way into my naming calculus.