The Theory Behind The Name Game

Finding a good baby name is one of the dilemmas that plague parents who live in a modern setting. In an increasingly competitive world parents are doing everything they can to ensure that their kids have a bright future. Parents do have the right to be conscious about the name. After all it is the parents' first official responsibility to name their children, which is why no one wants to screw it up.

Names are given for the purpose of being able to identify a person from another. Just imagine a world with no names and how complicated it would get to identify a person. However, it's important to note that names in all cultures, at least the cultures that practice name giving, are chosen because of the meaning and value that a name possesses. In addition, a name can have different values and meanings based on the people who hear the name.

How People Used to Pick a Baby Name

Giving a baby a name during the old days wasn't as difficult or confusing as it is today. Back then names were often given to denote a person's lineage and where they come from. The name Johnson for example simply means "son of John", the Russian name Petrovich means "son of Peter".

The most famous example of a name that includes their place of birth is Leonardo Da Vinci. Most people address him as such and assume that Da Vinci is his surname when in fact, it simply means that he came from a place called Vinci. His full name is actually "Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci" which would be the English equivalent of Leonardo, son of sir Piero from Vinci. As anyone can see, Leonardo didn't even have a last name in the strictest sense.

The Baby Name Game

Finding a good name for a baby can be quite a challenge. A baby will carry the name they're given for the rest of their natural lives, unless of course they opt to change it themselves. Finding a good baby name is like playing a game where the rules change depending on where a person lives.

For the sake of making things simple, the rules of the game are mainly dictated by society's culture. Take for example the name Adam. The name Adam is often a popular choice for first born Catholics given how the first man was named the same. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the origin of the name has no idea and therefore a neutral perception of the name.

Be careful when choosing a name, what might be great for one culture might be offensive for another, or even hilarious.

Nominative Determinism Theory

Psychology is the social science of understanding how a person's brain work based on their thought processes, emotions, and behavior. One recent term that was used to describe a theory is called nominative determinism. The term itself comes from the feedback column of a British scientific journal New Scientist. The idea behind the theory itself however, can trace its roots to luminary psychologist Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud's most successful student, in his paper Synchronicity.

In Carl Jung's Synchronicity, Jung describes how there can be a "gross coincidence" between a person's name and their profession and proclivities. Jung even went so far as to give a list of psychologists whose contributions to the discipline is marked by their names; and they are:

  • Sigmund Freud (Joy) whose theory focuses on the pleasure principle.
  • Alfred W. Adler (Eagle) whose theory centers on the "Will to Power" the eagle being a near universal symbol for power, authority, comprehension and ingenuity.
  • Carl Jung (Young) and his theory of rebirth.

Basically the Nominative Determinism theory states that a person's name can have an effect on a person's preferences and behavior. A caveat, this idea is still a theory and is by no means and hasn't been proven with rock solid evidence, yet.

Name's the Same

The term used to refer to names that fit an individual well is called by many names. The word aptronym is perhaps the first recorded word that was used to refer to the name phenomenon. Internet speak has brought the world the PFLNs or "perfect fit last names" in normal English. Other terms used to describe the perfect name phenomenon are, onomastic determinism, jobonymns, aptonym, and so much more.

The Latin phrase nomen est omen literally translates into "Name is omen" in today's English. It was used in Tom Stoppard's play Jumpers and adequately describes how the name can reflect a person's character.

Finding or Making the Right Aptronym

Picking the best aptronym basically amounts to what a baby's parents want their child to be when they grow up. If a man named John for example wants his child to grow up like him then giving him the name John or Johnson would be the best. Parents who want their babies to take up a certain profession may want to consider names related to it; or names of people who were luminaries in that particular profession.

There are options for parents who don't want to name their babies after some term related to a profession or a famous figure. After all, parents want the names of their children to be meaningful, but also unique. These parents can simply pick a name that has an alliterative appeal. A good example of a name with added alliterative appeal is Dennis Smiler who is a dentist by profession.

The logic behind the alliteration can be explained in detail by another psychological theory called the name-letter effect. Basically, people like things that start with the same letter as their names, so finding lawyer Laura may not entirely be a coincidence.

Examples of Aptronyms

Below is a short list of Aptronyms in various categories:


  • Jack William Armstrong - is a retired Major League Baseball pitcher.
  • Jack William Armstrong Jr. - is the son of the aforementioned baseball pitcher and turned down a $1 million dollar signing bonus for the Texas Ranger, so he can play for his college baseball team, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
  • Allan Ball - is a name that was shared by father and son footballers, the son eventually played in the 1966 World Cup, and yes their team won.
  • Reggie Corner - was the cornerback of the Buffalo Bills and now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Wolfgang Wolf - formerly managed VfL Wolfsburg, a German football club.


  • Jules Angst - a German professor who published works in the field of psychology, more specifically anxiety.
  • Storm Field - son of Frank Field, is a retired New York meteorologist.
  • A.J. Splatt and D. Weedon - published an article in the British Journal of Urology their topic, incontinence.


  • Igor Judge - present day Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. May only be referred to as Lord Judge in formal proceedings.


  • Novella Carpenter - a journalist and urban farmer who wrote the novel Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer; which earned itself the distinction of being hailed as one of the best novels in 2009.


  • Bernie Madoff - man made famous when he made off with a lot of people's money.

Remember the first name is just important as the last, so be sure to pick the right baby name.