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What’s In A Name? Just Ask Ugh Study Shows Our Initials Can Mold Us

Sat., March 28, 1998

Maybe names really will hurt you. People with initials such as ACE or GOD are likely to live longer than those whose names spell words like APE, DUD or RAT, a study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, looked at 27 years’ worth of California death certificates.

People with monograms such as JOY or WOW had a better chance of living longer and were less likely to commit suicide or die in an accident than those with neutral or meaningless initials such as JAY or WLW, or those named, say, BUM or UGH, said psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld. He presented his findings Friday at a meeting in New Orleans of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.

“The argument is that there’s some psychological symbolic factor that can exert its impact cumulatively over the years,” he said in an interview. “You get teased at school, wonder what your parents thought of you - maybe fate is out to get you - but at every stage it’s a little tiny depressant to be called PIG, or a little tiny boost to your esteem to be called ACE or WOW. All we can do is look at the final outcome.”

The findings do seem to support the idea that liking your name and liking yourself may be linked and that parents should be sensitive when naming children, said Penelope Wasson Dralle, a professor in LSU Medical Center’s psychiatry department.

“If people tend to look at your name and look up at you and laugh, you’re sort of at a disadvantage,” she said. But, she warned, the study “really doesn’t give us any cause and effects.”


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