With no way to quantify how names affect people’s lives, we turned to readers for guidance. They were eager to share their stories and insights.
Although some may not want to admit it, everyone subconsciously gets a sense of a person by his or her name, according to 40-year-old Stapleton resident Mindee Forman. She was supposed to be a Jennifer but the doctor told her mom he had already delivered 14 Jennifers that week and encouraged that she reconsider; hence Mindee. She thinks the double “e” in her name makes her seem ditzy, so she makes it a point to disprove that. Forman cites the character SanDeE*, played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the 1991 movie L.A. Story. As one might gather from the spelling of her name, she is cute, a bit ditzy and immature. She draws attention to her unusual name by telling people, “Capital S, lowercase a, lowercase n, capital D, lowercase e, capital E and starred.”
Throughout Forman’s life she has been hyper-aware of how people perceive her because of her ditzy-sounding name. “I’m pretty on the serious side, and that may be partly a reaction to my name.”
Stapleton resident Tina Turner loves having an unusual name. The 45-year-old mom and office furniture saleswoman talks candidly and laughs a lot. She thinks about her name as a chicken-and-egg debate. “Would I have a big personality if I had a different name? Would I still be the same person? Or has my name helped bring that out in me?”
Regardless, she says it’s been a big advantage in life both professionally and socially. With the name Tina Turner, she can get on the phone with CEOs who wouldn’t talk to her otherwise. Many ask if she’s the real Tina Turner. “Oh God, no, I wouldn’t be calling about office furniture if it was,” she tells them and laughs.
Aniekanabasi Ekiko (Uh-knee-can-uh-boss-ee uh-kee-koh)
Throughout his life, people have assumed Aniekanabasi Ekiko is a female. At summer camp he was assigned to the girls’ dorms and his freshmen year at the University of Colorado-Boulder he was paired with a female roommate.
After assuming he’s a female, people wonder where he’s from. Ekiko grew up in Nigeria and moved to Denver when he was 10. When he first started his car-shipping company he used his full legal name, but he couldn’t get potential customers to focus on business. They only wanted to talk about his name—what it means, where it comes from, how you spell it, how you say it. “Then once I explain where my name comes from, people would sometimes shy away from doing business,” he says.
A 2011 study by LinkedIn on the relationship between people’s first names and their career choices found that the top CEOs had common white-sounding names—Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce and Fred for the men; Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia and Carolyn for the women. Because his name has been a disadvantage professionally, Ekiko has found it most effective to go by his middle name Rogers for doing national business and his full name for international business.
Marybeth Barry Brush
Brush believes she would’ve had better chances as a TV news anchor with a less garbled name. “I mean, who can say Marybeth Barry Brush easily?”
Birgit Ifolda Roesink-Miller (Beer-get Ee-Fold-ah Ross-ink Miller)
Names are more a reflection of the parents than the kids, according to the book Baby Name Wizard, a compilation of name data including everything from soap opera cast lists to Ivy League alumni rosters.
Right after emigrating from Germany to Vail, Colo., Helena and Horst Krebs had their first daughter, Nicole. Five years later they had their second daughter, Birgit. “I think they were trying to fit in after emigrating. When I came along five years later they wanted to reconnect with their heritage,” Birgit says. She laughs at the difference between her name and her sister’s name. Growing up she hated her name and the nicknames “Beer gut” and “Big foot.” “As a kid you just want to be like everyone else,” she says. “When you become more of an adult you realize you like the independence and diversity.”
Philippa Kinloch, who goes by “Pippa” and was named after her aunt from New Zealand, likes having a unique name—the only other Pippa she has met was a dog in the park.
Stapleton resident Stephanie Warnell named her son Torsten after a best friend she grew up with during her summers in Germany. She remembers a conversation with a neighbor while walking down the block after Torsten was born. She told the neighbor his name is Torsten. “So what are you going to call him?” the neighbor asked. “Well, his name is Torsten,” Warnell replied. She and her husband walked away giggling to each other at the neighbor’s reaction. Most of the time they think people’s reactions are funny, but they do get frustrated when no one can remember Torsten’s name.
Chance, Jett and Zander Jaques
Stapleton resident Molly Jaques (Jakes) says it’s a lot of pressure to be the trustee of your child’s name. She wishes parents could get to know their child for a few months and then decide a name. Her three boys are Chance, Jett and Zander. They chose the name Chance so he could have his own pickup line—“Hey, wanna take a chance?”
Jett originally went by his first name Mason, but in kindergarten decided he did not want to be one of the many Masons in his class. He decided to go by his middle name Jett. “Jett fits his little crazy personality much better,” Warnell says.
So how do parents pick a name?
Of the people interviewed, those who have difficult-to-pronounce names chose simple names for their kids to avoid any confusion. And the people with simple names chose more unique names for their kids.
Parents interviewed say names, whether sentimental or clever, are chosen with a hope for their kid’s life—to be unique, to be successful, to carry on a family name. Aniekanabasi Ekiko cherishes his Nigerian identity and wanted his daughter to as well. Although inconvenient at times, his name, which means, “There is nothing greater than God,” in his parent’s native Nigerian language, is a vital part of his identity. He and his wife named their daughter Edidiong, which means, “blessing.”
Can you match the name to the person?
Based on your first impression of the names listed, can you match an identity?
- Mindee Forman
- Philippa Kinloch
- Birgit Roesink-Miller
- Marybeth Barry Brush
- Jett, Tom, Chance, Molly & Zander Jaques
- Aniekanabasi, Edidiong & Marcy Ekiko
- Tina Turner
- Torsten Gray