Here & there: The weight of your name

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — On the island of Šipan, Croatia, lives a man named Christmas. Božić to be exact (pronounced Boar-zcho). Which means Christmas in Croatian.

Božić makes the most delicious chai tea with foamed milk. It tastes like the holiday for whom the maker is named. And the taste converts to the same feeling when sipping it on the patio of his quaint, stone café nestled in the crook of the Šipanska Luka harbor. It is heaven on earth.

But that same delightful old St. Nick is also known to perform a slight of hand with Croatian Kuna when doing currency trades with foreigners.  Or so we learned.

One of my traveling companions walked away from her transaction with him sure she was short some twenty USD.

After that, the chai tea didn’t quite taste like Christmas anymore to her.  And neither did the name Božić.

Can perception really affect a name?  Or a name affect perception? Carl Jung hypothesized that people are drawn to professions that fit their names. The idea is called nominative determinism.

Tina Fey referred to President Trump not by his given name, but as “Donny John,” during her “sheet-caking” satirical protest of his response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville earlier this year. Based on this, it seems like Fey believes that names have power, too.

And so does President Trump.  He refers to many of his political opponents by alternative names, from Rocket Man and Crooked Hillary to Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas.

My youngest boy is named Augustus.  When he was little, he threw a monumental fit in the car one afternoon about his name. His complaint?  One of his brothers shares a name with a prophet and the other brother shares a name with a great grandfather – and all he got was dumb, old Augustus.

But then, his oldest brother told him the story of Caesar Augustus, the most powerful empower of all time. Almost immediately Augustus was fine with his name.

He’s not the only one who thinks his name means something.

One morning when Augustus was just shy of one, he and I were eating bagels at our neighborhood Einstein’s.  Eating bagels, or rather ceremoniously gnawing on them and then extending them out to inspect his progress as if he was an old man smoking a Cuban cigar, was one of his favorite pastimes at that age.  And that morning was no exception.

Midway through the routine, I noticed I wasn’t the only one watching my boy; he also had the captive attention of a grandmotherly woman on the far edge of the dining area.

When the she noticed me noticing her, she popped up and briskly approached, a smile on her face.

“What is that baby’s name?  I’ve got to know,” she erupted before she’d even reached the table.  At my reply, she retorted excitedly, “Well, of course it is!”

“He looked like [President] Teddy Roosevelt eating that bagel.  I tell you, this boy is going to be grow up something special with that name – maybe President of the United States or a Captain of Industry.”

And then she walked away.

This woman apparently subscribed to the Jungian philosophy. And while flattered that she predicted my infant son would rise to the presidency of the United States, it made me think what names really say about a person.

These days, however, Jung doesn’t appear to have a lot of scientific support.

New research from two reputable economics professors, one from the University of Chicago and the other from Harvard, says that a first name doesn’t affect a person’s economic life at all.

Instead, according to the research of University of Chicago political scientist named Eric Oliver, first names simply say something about the people doing the naming.  Specifically, they say something about the political ideology of the child’s parents.

In that case, Božić’s mother must have been influenced by Christianity. My husband and I might be propagating globalization.  And “Donny John’s” parents?  Well, I’m not sure what influenced them. I’ll let Carl Jung figure that one out.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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