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He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy (or girl)


We do get to see some unusual names within our line of work, and sometimes we do wonder why the Registrar didnt counsel the parents ought of it. (I understand that in France, their equivalent of a Registrar has a right of veto on names)

This piece came my way care of Freakonomics, which was reporting a child who had been named Colt .45 after the handgun.  The parents actually posted a comment on the subsequent discussion and they seemed to me like very reasonable and nice people.

Freakonomics is very good on the consequences of names in later life, and what it is that parents are signifying, sometimes subconsciously, when they select a name. They have also done extensive research about the social migration of names (how names that are used by very rich people tend to find their way into poorer families by way of aspiration over time and then get dropped by the rich people) .

  They also reported on the life experiences of two brothers, one named “Lucky” and one named “Unlucky”   [And they report a similar case of two brothers with the surname Fail, one named “Will” and one “Never”


Anyway, in this report, a US Judge forcibly changes a baby’s name from  “Messiah” to “Martin” 

Peculiarly, it turns out that “Messiah” as a name for a child in America has hit the top 400 and is one of the fastest growing names.  {Of course, it occurs to me that Jesus is not that uncommon a name in Spain or Latin America, though I think it would raise some eyebrows in the UK}   Time will tell then, whether being named Messiah causes you problems in life, or whether it is empowering, or makes no difference at all.


Looking at this also threw up a report on a baby named “Storm” in America in 2011, whose parents decided that they were going to try to raise Storm as a genderless child and not tell anyone whether Storm was a boy or a girl. The idea presumably being that the child would form their own personality and tastes, free from gender stereotyping. Wonder if they are still doing it?

 The detail I like from this is passers-by slowing down their cars if they saw the family on the sidewalk so that they could shout “Boy!” at this baby.

{I found a British couple that had done the same thing, which lasted until their child was five, and primary school made being genderless pretty tricky}


This is curious though, it turns out that people do act different towards even babies depending on what they believe their gender to be

One 1975 study, published in the journal Sex Roles, put 42 non-parents in a room with a 3-month-old baby and three toys: a football, a doll and a gender-neutral teething ring. A third of the volunteers were told the baby was a girl, a third thought the baby was a boy, and a third were told that the experimenter couldn’t recall if the baby was a boy or a girl.

Unsurprisingly, when the volunteers thought the baby was a girl rather than a boy, they were much more likely to offer “her” a doll to play with. If they didn’t know the baby’s gender, the male volunteers tended to go for the teething ring, while women offered the baby the doll. That could mean that women see dolls as less gendered, or it could mean that the men in the study hewed more strictly to gender roles.

Overall, people held and touched the baby less if they thought “she” was a girl. When they didn’t know the sex, a gender difference emerged again: Men held the unknown baby less, while women held the baby more.

About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

4 responses

  1. I have had the pleasure of meeting a girl from the states named Sh’tonya which is possibly the worst name after the Japanese student a friend taught called Superporn

  2. …..and you didn’t even get on to nominiative determinism. There are many websites that list Puritan names -seems to have been a very 17thC practice.
    I’m sure I’ve read of women (and most of the names seem to have been given to women) who had really gloomy names, like Disappointment (or WasHopingForABoy)..

    We still have Patience, Joy and Faith, of course.. And Charity sounds like a pop star, whereas Chastity is right out of fashion.

    Then there are the place names: Brooklyn, Chelsey and Chelsea..; is Rio the only geological feature that’s also a name?

    Most surnames seem to be placenames; I was recently interested to hear that the surname of a BBC continuity announces is the same as a village near where I live.

    Happy Christmas, what’s left of it.

  3. I thought Chelsea Clinton was so named because she was conceived there. Meet her half-siblings: Digs in Oxford Clinton, Governor’s Mansion at Little Rock Clinton, and of course Cleaner’s Closet near the Oval Office Clinton. And I definitely won’t add the one about Bill’s problem being that he was too generous. Not on this site.

    Nor the true one about what Monica said on an English-language chatshow on German television. You’ve probably all heard it.

  4. Didn’t Madonna’s parents set a precedent here?

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