The name game
Nicholas Christenfeld Charaktery 4/2008
Among the defining moments in a person’s life – and on such a list most would include conception, coming-of -age ceremonies, near-death experiences, and perhaps a wedding or two – a moment that might be worth adding is the one when the person is named. Names seem far more than arbitrary labels useful for telling one’s children apart, or alerting friends to falling safes and other imminent dangers. They seem instead to capture and shape the individual, making it reasonable to say, as is done in English, German, Mandarin, and other, though not all, languages, not just ‘I am called Nicholas’, but ‘I am Nicholas’. This identity of name as self suggests that it is worth looking for correspondence between names and the characters of those who hold them. There is no shortage of research doing just this.
There is also no shortage of research disputing causal effects of names on characters. The
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