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Should parents pick unusual or unique names for their children?

Having a unique name has its set of advantages and disadvantages.

Some parents think that giving their child unique or exotic names to distinguish them from all the Rahuls, Poojas, and Johns of the world. But would you go so far as to name your child Apple, Sunday, Audio or Cricket for the sake of uniqueness? Those are legitimate baby names that some of our zany celebs have picked for their children.

Dr Kedar Tilwe Consultant Psychiatrist at Dept. of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, SL Raheja Hospital- A Fortis Associate says, "Some parents pick unusual names for their children so that they'd stand out. It could be a name that holds some significance for the parents or what is popular at that moment." The truth is that although a unique name will have a stand-out factor, the early social life of a person with an unusual name will never be easy.

Upneet was never a fan of her unisex name because people always mistook her for a man before they met her. "My name is unique in a lot of ways. It is very rare, so no one gets it the first time. Everyone misspells it and mispronounces it. Since it's also a unisex name, 9/10 people who hear it for the first time think it is the name of a boy," she says.

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Childhood bullying is a common problem in India, which is avoidable only to a certain extent, according to Nagpur-based psychiatrist Dr Avinash Joshi. "Anybody who is a little different or unusual, which includes having a different name or different physical characteristics, will be subjected to bullying," says Dr Joshi.

Dr Tilwe adds, "If it is a name that the peer group cannot identify with, it can make the child more susceptible to bullying. The child gets teased with mispronunciations of the name." An unusual name can, therefore, be a source of great stress for the child.

"Children who are bullied about their name will feel a sense of inferiority vis-a-vis the peers," says Dr Joshi.They may feel that they are different from the others just because they have a unique name. The bullying and the teasing will naturally lead to them suffering from a low self-esteem. To a great extent, such children may also blame themselves for the bullying.

One of the biggest repercussions of an unusual name is that it creates strife between the child and the parents. Shaloo, a 24-year-old writer says that she hated her parents for having picked out an unusual name for her. "I developed a hatred for myself and my parents because of my name. The impact was so much that my grades started getting affected," she rues. "Since the parents are responsible for picking out the exotic name for them, such children will end up resenting their parents," says Dr Tilwe.

"Since they have been treated differently by their peers, children bullied for their names would eventually develop behavioural peculiarities," says Dr Joshi. "Such idiosyncratic behavioural traits are also seen in people growing up with deformities like squint," he adds.

Having an unusual name can also make people more suspicious of you says a 2012 study. A research headed by Eryn Newman from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand revealed that it is a natural human tendency to be mistrustful of people with unpronounceable names. Those with names that are easier to pronounce are trusted more than those with difficult names.

"Although Shakespeare has said 'What's in a name?', there is a lot that rides on your name," quips Dr Joshi. Your name is the first thing people ask about you and the first thing that you reveal about yourself. It's tied to your identity and your self-worth. "But it is important to note that having a unique name also has its own advantages," says Dr Tilwe. The obvious benefit is that your name will be conspicuous, which helps you stand out from the crowd. Works well if you want your future employer to notice you among a list of names. Unique names have better recall value and people will remember them better. Not to mention, it is bound to create curiosity so it is a great conversation starter! So a few ruined childhood years notwithstanding, a unique name will help your child stand out and be more memorable.

Reference:

Newman, E. J., Sanson, M., Miller, E. K., Quigley-McBride, A., Foster, J. L., Bernstein, D. M., & Garry, M. (2014). People with easier to pronounce names promote truthiness of claims. PloS one, 9(2), e88671.

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