Monday, June 9, 2008


I've recently acquired a new nephew named "Malcom." Yes. "Malcom." I oscillate between feeling bad about spelling it "Malcolm" on postcards from Germany and wanting to ask his parents how they could hate him so much when he was only a few hours old.

An unpopular name - like Alec, Ernest, Ivan, or Malcolm - is more likely to spell trouble than favourites Michael, Matthew or Christopher, according to research presented Saturday at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of B.C.

``There is a positive correlation between unpopular first names and juvenile delinquency,'' said Daniel Lee, an economics professor at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

Using regression models, Lee and co-author David Kalist found that regardless of race, the more unique, rare and unpopular the name is, the more likely it popped up in youth crime files 10 to 18 years later.

Oops. Fortunately, correlation is not causality, although it's not difficult to imagine that a childhood spent "correcting" adults who pronounce or spell your name right would internalize an unhealthy disregard for authority and societal conventions...
However, research also showed that the PNI of a juvenile's name is also associated with other factors, such as socio-economic conditions and family structure.

``The PNI is positively associated when the kid is living with both parents and negatively associated when living only with the mother,'' said Lee, adding that juveniles with more unpopular names also tended to live in the state's more disadvantaged counties.

I think Bill Cosby said something about this a few years ago.


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