名字是否会决定你的命运?

编辑:给力英语新闻 更新:2017年11月12日 作者:杰西卡·布朗(Jessica Brown)

当雷蒙德·查治(意为“法官”)和罗萨·查治(Raymond and Rosa Judge)夫妻的儿子伊戈尔(Igor)呱呱坠地时,他将来要从事什么职业就已经很清楚了。要知道,即便罗萨在结婚前的本姓“麦卡利夫(Micallef)”实际上也是源自阿拉伯语的“法官”一词。

不出所料,伊戈尔毕业后进入了法律界,并最终成为英国首席大法官:一位法官中的“法官”。要是“法官”大法官先生多年来已经对于他的名字所引发的笑话感到厌烦的话,想想前马尼拉大主教卡迪那尔·辛恩(Cardinal Sin)(意为“罪恶”),他的感受或许能好一些。

我们的名字会不会决定自己的命运?以上故事可能只是些许巧合,但是新近研究已经证实,我们的名字的确会影响到我们的在校表现、职业发展前景、以至我们受欢迎的程度。我们的姓氏甚至会揭示出我们会有哪种体格和性格。

有人解释说,出现这种情况的原因在于我们会在潜意识中与自己的名字拉近距离。人们把这种现象称为“隐藏式自我主义(implicit egotism)”,它足以解释为什么有那么多牙医姓“Dennis”。


我们为孩子起的名字将会影响他们一生的命运(图片来源: Getty Images)

与此同时,我们的姓名还会影响别人对我们的看法。2013年,英国专栏作家凯蒂·霍普金斯(Katie Hopkins)承认,她会把儿童姓氏和名字所代表的社会经济背景联系起来。她说,她喜欢那些有着“维多利亚时代古典名字”,或者有拉丁语或希腊语渊源名字的儿童,并希望他们成为她自己孩子的玩伴。

尽管她的说法引起了人们的广泛抗议,但是有大量研究证实,有这种习惯的人其实远远不止公开承认的少数人士。

美国西北大学政策研究学院院长大卫·菲戈里奥(David Figlio)曾经开展过几项针对姓名影响的研究。

他首先调查了蓝领阶层或非洲裔美国人惯用的名字。例如,穷人喜欢用有“isha”(例如Lakisha)后缀的名字,含单引号的名字(例如Du'Quan)也是如此。

然后,他比较了分别取蓝领名字和中产阶级名字的同胞兄弟姐妹,发现取蓝领名字的儿童在学校里的表现比取中产阶级名字的兄弟姐妹要差。“这不仅仅是由于蓝领家庭会给儿童取蓝领名字,”菲戈里奥说,同时还与社会对不同名字所具有的阶层内涵存在的期望差异有关。

针对牛津大学学生所做的一项研究证实,这种效应已经超出了学校的范围。格里高利·克拉克(Gregory Clark)把该校2008-2013年1.4万名学生的名字与社会人群进行了对比。他发现,牛津大学学生里叫“Eleanor”的比例是社会平均比例的三倍,其他高比例名字还包括Peter、 Simon、Anna 和Katherine。而Shane、Shannon、Paige和Jade的比例则较低。Jade的比例甚至不到社会平均比例的30分之一。


我们倾向于给孩子取好读的名字(图片来源: Getty Images)

除阶层外,你的名字是否简单易读也会对你的人生际遇产生影响。

有研究在调查了49位成人(大部分为亚裔美国人)的就学经历后发现,读错学生名字的教师会被学生戴上“广泛种族攻击”的帽子。很多人都曾在学校因为其名字而遭遇包括被教师读错名字在内的“广泛种族攻击”,从而导致孤立感和焦虑等一系列情绪问题。

菲戈里奥称,名字对人的影响在毕业后会依然持续。“名字效应在学校里很常见,即便教师与学生频繁互动仍然如此。人们会根据名字评价一个人,这种习惯很难消失。”

两位研究者发现,这种偏见在成年人中也屡见不鲜。他们把两类不同的简历分别寄给了波士顿和芝加哥的报社,并在报纸求职专栏发布;其中一类简历上的姓名是典型的白人名字 – 例如艾米丽·威尔士(Emily Walsh)和格雷格·贝克(Greg Baker) ;另一类简历上的姓名则有明显的非洲裔特色,例如拉吉莎·华盛顿(Lakisha Washington)或贾马尔·琼斯(Jamal Jones)。

他们记录了对各个求职广告的回复,然后发现“艾米丽”和“格雷格”收到的面试邀约数量是“拉吉莎”和“贾马尔”的两倍。

The Bouba/Kiki effect “Bouba/Kiki”效应

除了上述隐藏式种族歧视和阶层偏见外,你名字的读音也会带来问题:仅仅因为发音不同,“Molly”和“Katie”就会给人带来不同的感受。这是为何?

众所周知,不同字母和单词的读音会给人要么尖锐,要么圆润的感觉。“bouba”的感觉比较圆润,“kiki”则较为尖锐。

加拿大卡尔加里大学的研究人员发现,我们的名字也会产生相似的效应。在一次实验中,他们向一群受试者提问,读到不同名字时,他们的脑海中会浮现出尖锐,还是圆润的图像。实验结果同样符合“Bouba/Kiki”效应。


某些名字的读音给人以柔美、友好和活泼的印象(图片来源: Getty images)

研究证实,含有“b”、“u”两个音节的名字听起来较为圆润,而含有“k”和“i”两个音节的名字则更为尖锐。发音圆润的名字有Leo、Molly、Nathan 和Samantha等,而发音尖锐的名字则包括Tia、Kira和Katie等。

研究者还发现,受试者会把发音圆润的名字和女性特质联系起来,发音尖锐的名字则象征着男性特质,这样就在名字和性别概念之间建立了联系,这一点甚至延伸到了性格印象。人们认为,拥有“圆润”名字的人更加能适应环境、更加随和、开放、友好、风趣和内敛,而拥有“尖锐”名字的人则更具冲击性、更易怒、性格更为果断、暴躁、刻薄。

研究者还发现,人们对某人的看法倾向于趋同化。在32位受试者中,有24人承认他们在实验中受到他人的影响 – 这是实验的另一大发现。

一脉相承

最后,让我们探讨一下你的姓氏的由来。研究者最近研究了Y染色体上(只能由父亲传给儿子)基因标记和姓氏的关系,并且把在西班牙、英国和爱尔兰的研究结果进行比对。

他们发现,在西班牙和英国,姓氏相同、并且源自同一祖先的人相似度越高,他们的姓氏就越罕见。

在英国,5,000人以上的姓氏群体几乎完全没有同一祖先。但在爱尔兰,研究者发现即便非常常见的爱尔兰姓氏人群也会拥有同样的Y染色体。他们得出结论:出现这种情况的原因在于爱尔兰的人口少于英国和西班牙,人口分布和历史也大为不同。


某些儿童可能由于姓氏的原因导致性情顽劣(图片来源: Getty Images)

我们的姓氏也会揭示我们从祖先继承的体格类型,这些姓氏可能是源自祖先当时所从事的职业。

研究者向200多名姓Tailor(意为“裁缝”)或Smith(源自“铁匠”)的男女询问了他们的年龄、身高体重、以及从事体力或耐力型运动的能力。研究者还持续记录了英国、澳大利亚和德国田径组织田径运动会长达一年多的男子选手排名数据。

他们发现,和Smith们比起来,Tailor们身材较矮、体重较轻、强壮程度也不如前者。Smith们自认为更适合做体力工作和参与运动,在体力型运动项目中取胜的比例更高。而Tailor们则更适合要求较轻体重的耐力性项目。

无论我们的父母给我们取什么名字,最重要的在于我们如何看待它。菲戈里奥的研究表明,与取正常男性名字的男孩相比,取女性名字的男孩会遇到更多问题,当课堂里有一个女孩也叫同样的名字时,这个问题就会更加严重。

我们的名字会从我们年幼起就开始影响我们的生活,这足以引起人们的重视。但是同时,意识到这一点的人也越来越多。例如,“我的名字,我的身份”活动的目的就在于提起人们对于个性化姓名的重视。

让你我聊以自慰的是,即便那些出类拔萃的大人物也会受到名字的困扰。美国总统巴拉克·奥巴马就曾经拿他的中名“侯赛因”开玩笑:“给我起中名的人当初肯定没想到我有朝一日会去竞选总统”。

Your name reveals more than you think

When Raymond and Rosa Judge welcomed their son Igor into the world, it may have seemed obvious what profession he would choose. Even Rosa’s maiden name, Micallef, was a derivation of the Arabic word for Judge.

Sure enough, Igor was called to the bar and eventually became Britain’s Lord Chief Justice: the judge’s judge. If Lord Judge has become sick of the jokes over the years, he could at least remember that there are other people with far more unfortunate names: just think of Cardinal Sin, the former Archbishop of Manila.

Does our name decide our fate? While we may brush these cases aside as coincidence, some surprising new studies would suggest that in some small way, it does, influencing our behaviour in school, our job prospects, and our popularity. Our surname may even give clues to our physique and vitality.

One explanation behind this is that we are subconsciously drawn to words and names that remind us of our own. This is called “implicit egotism,” and explains why there are a disproportionately high number of dentists called Dennis.

But our names also play a part in how others see us. In 2013, the British columnist Katie Hopkins admitted to associating children’s names to stereotypes about their socio-economic background. She said she favoured children with “good old-fashioned Victorian names” or those with a Latin or Greek origin, as playmates for her children.

Despite the outrage this incurred, a wealth of research suggests that this habit may be more widespread than we would perhaps like to admit.

David Figlio, director at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, has carried out several studies looking into the impact of names.

He first surveyed participants to work out the characteristics of names that were associated with working class or African American backgrounds. The suffix “isha” (such as in the name Lakisha) tends to be associated with poor backgrounds, as does the use of an apostrophe (in Du’Quan, for instance).

He then compared pairs of siblings, one with a working-class name and one who has a middle-class name, and found that children with names that sound working class do worse in school than those with names that sound middle-class do. “This is not just because working-class families give their children names that sound working-class,” Figlio says, but is also due to societal expectations associated with the name's class connotation.

This effect can last well beyond school, as confirmed by a study looking at students attending Oxford University. Gregory Clark compared the first names of 14,000 students at the university between 2008 and 2013 with the general population. He found that there were three times as many Eleanors at Oxford than average, closely trailed by Peters, Simons, Annas and Katherines. Shane, Shannon, Paige and Jade had less luck. The number of Jades at Oxford was less than one-30th of the average rate.

Aside from class, your life chances can also be affected by how easy your name is to pronounce by those around you.

One study found that teachers pronouncing pupils’ names wrongly was seen by pupils as a “racial macroaggression”, after surveying a sample of 49 adults, who were mostly Asian American, on their past experience in school. Many had experienced racist macroaggressions in school relating to their name, including teachers pronouncing it incorrectly, and in some cases it led to feeling isolated and anxious.   

Figlio says the effects of this can last well beyond the first call of the class register. “The fact that the name effects show up in a schooling setting, even after teachers have many opportunities for interactions with their students, suggests that this name-based judgment is slow to fade. 

This effect can, in fact, last into adulthood, as two researchers found. They sent out two different CVs to job newspaper ads in Boston and Chicago; half were given a “white-sounding” name – the research paper gives the examples of Emily Walsh and Greg Baker – and the other half an “African American-sounding name,” such as Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones. 

They recorded the responses for their fictional candidates, and found that Emily and Greg were twice as likely as Lakisha and Jamal to be offered an interview.

The Bouba/Kiki effect

Beyond this implicit racism and class prejudice, the random sounds of your name may evoke certain characteristics: a Molly is perceived differently from a Katie, for instance, thanks to the way the syllables roll off the tongue. How come?

It’s well established that we associate certain letters and words with spiked shapes, and others as rounded. We associate the word “bouba” with softer contours, compared to the sharper-sounding “kiki” for instance.

This also extends to our names, as researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada found out. A group of people were asked whether certain names made them think of a spiked or rounded silhouette, and the results aligned with the Bouba/Kiki effect. 

As the previous research suggested, names containing the letters ‘b’ and ‘u’ were associated with roundness, and ‘k’ and ‘i’ with sharpness. Round-sounding names included Leo, Molly, Nathan and Samantha, while Tia, Kira and Katie were associated with sharpness.

The researchers then found that participants associated the round sounds with female qualities and the sharp sounds with male qualities, meaning there was a link between names and the concept of gender. It also extended to personality types. The “round” names were considered adaptable, easy going, open, friendly, funny and introverted, while “sharper” names were considered more aggressive, angry, determined, irritable and sarcastic.

The researchers did, however, factor in our tendency to conflate the opinions we have of people we know with their names. Of the 32 participants, 24 admitted they were influenced by existing associations during the study – which could be a significant finding in itself.

Deep ancestry

Let’s finally consider the question of your surname and what it says about your ancestry. Researchers recently tested surnames with markers on the Y chromosomes, which are passed down from father to son, and compared the results they found in Spain to Britain and Ireland.

They found that, in both Spain and Britain, the likelihood of people with the same surname also sharing an ancestor was higher the more rare the surname was.

In Britain, surnames shared by more than 5,000 people showed close to zero common ancestry. But in Ireland, it was found that even extremely common Irish surnames shared a Y chromosome.  The authors concluded that Ireland might be different due to smaller population sizes, or different demographics and history than Britain and Spain. 

Our surnames may also reveal our physique, suggesting we could inherit body types from our ancestors, who were likely named after their profession.

Researchers asked more than 200 men with the surname Tailor or Smith (a name originally given to blacksmiths) their age, height and weight, as well as their abilities in strength and endurance sports. They also screened men’s rankings over one year for track-and-field events for all UK, Austrian and German athletic associations.

They found that Tailors tended to be shorter, lighter, and less bulky than Smiths. Smiths tended to deem themselves more suited for strength-related professions and sports, and are overrepresented in strength sports, whereas Tailors are overrepresented in endurance sports, which demands a lighter frame.

Whatever name we’re given at birth, what’s most important is the way we learn to deal it. Figlio’s research shows that boys with girls' names get into greater trouble than boys with typically male names, and that this difference is particularly the case in classrooms where there is a girl with the same name.

That our names can begin to influence our fate at such a young age is particularly concerning, but it is becoming a more recognised issue. Efforts such as the My Name, My Identity campaign are working to raise awareness of the importance of celebrating the sense of individuality our names hold.

And one consolation is that this struggle happens to the best of us. US president Barack Obama once joked of his middle name, Hussein, “I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn’t think that I’d run for president”. 

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