“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare has Juliet ask in Act II, Scene II of Romeo and Juliet. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” she says – arguing that a name is merely a label, and a label does not change the essence of a thing.
It’s a lovely sentiment, but modern psychological science comes to a different conclusion.
For many in the UK, and indeed around the world, one name that matters a great deal is that of William and Kate’s newborn baby. On Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that the betting agency Ladbrokes had taken 50,000 bets as the Duchess of Cambridge went into labour. Favourite names were Alexandra for a girl – no longer relevant – and James or George for a boy.
Another study, published in the journal Psychological Science in 2011, found that American babies who were born in older parts of the country, such as New England, were more likely to be given popular names. Parents in regions that were once part of the American frontier, such as the Pacific Northwest or the Rocky Mountains, were somewhat less likely to have popular names.
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