Are Hard-to-Spell, Hard-to-Say Baby Names Dangerous?

Names that are difficult to spell and pronounce are perceived as more dangerous than simpler names, according to a study conducted by University of Michigan psychologists Norbert Schwarz and Hyunjin Song.

The study focused on brand names, but the findings are applicable to baby names as well:

The bad news for kids whose parents couldn’t keep it simple is that uncommon monikers do present problems — at least at first. “People may not necessarily be perceived as more dangerous,” Song says. “But if all you know is their name, they may seem riskier to approach or hire.”

Earlier studies have linked unusual names to crime, but this is the first I’ve seen that correlates spelling/pronunciation with feelings of safety.

Source: Would You Buy Xylitol? Why Some Names Scare Us, TIME.com


6 thoughts on “Are Hard-to-Spell, Hard-to-Say Baby Names Dangerous?

  1. Interesting link – thank you!

    I wonder if there’s a difference between, say, Brianna spelled Briyannah and a name that is unusual, but not needlessly complicated? Would Beatrix fare worse than Emily? How about Gideon versus Jake?

  2. I wonder if Hyunjin has had any trouble…

    I’m a Bridgett with two t’s, no e at the end. It means I spend my life respelling my name for people, but I don’t think it’s caused folks not to hire me.

  3. @Abby: That’d certainly be a cool match-up: common-but-complicated vs. uncommon-but-uncomplicated. I’d love to know if there’s a difference there as well. (I wonder if these researchers take special requests?)

    @Bridgett: Haha, good point. This study makes Hyunjin dangerous, and that other study makes Norbert an (presumably reformed?) juvenile delinquent. No wonder they’re both so interested in names. :)

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