Killer Names

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.




  1. I love names, possibly because I’ve never been comfortable with my own. It sounds nice in Hungarian, but rather formal and…nasal in English. And I refuse to shorten it to Andie so I’ve never liked it. Meeka, on the other hand, feels like the real me. Sadly neither is likely to get me a job any time soon. 😉

    • Candy Korman

      Andrea—as pronounced in English would be fine here in the states for getting jobs, etc. It just gets complicated with Andre and Andres (men’s names) and that’s another one of those “stump the teacher on the first day of class” situations. Names that apply to both genders always cause a little hesitation— Dana, Leslie, Robin…. Anything unconventional makes them stumble. It’s probably the same inclination in Human Resources Departments of companies. Now, if we the head of H.R. is named Leticia and her assistant is Andre and her best friend is named Inna and her neighbors are named Hans and Jorge, maybe the advantage of being a Greg or an Emily will end?

      As for naming characters, I’m definitely adding this tidbit of information to my thought process!

  2. My entire family calls me Jeri Lynn, but that’s to differentiate me from my father who is Jerry Lee. As the third girl, I guess my parents figured it only made since to name me after dad as no boys were going to appear to be his namesake. If my middle name appears on a printout, people will call me Jeri Lynn as well, but I barely even answer to it. Yet, thanks to not being bought when I had the chance, when I do pick up on the author website idea again, I will be found at

    • Candy Korman

      Jeri Lynn in honor of Jerry Lee is a sweet!

      Missing out on reminds me of the downside of a too common name. There are magic combination of common names that crop up all the time. A few of my friends fall into this category. If you google one of them (I’ll spare him the call out) you’ll find athletes, astronauts, judges and a boatload of convicted felons. He is none of the above! LOL… Of course another dear friend was invited to a premiere screening of a documentary called The Grace Lee Project. Although she was not among the women interviewed for the film, she was in the room with many, many, many Grace Lees.

      I’ve been having fun with some of the names of the characters in the new novel. The folks come from a very big range of places and ages (two big factors in names). There is something very American and regional in Jerry Lee and Jeri Lynn. I like them! As employment is not a big issue for this group of well-positioned characters, I’m saving the issue of success in the business world & names for another project. I’m sure it’ll be useful. Perhaps a Jeri Lynn will appear?