Your baby’s bogan name hurts its future

THERE'S not much chance Australia will ever see a prime minister whose name is Mercedes, Diezel or Spontaniouse.

Research suggests giving your baby a non-traditional or bogan name can seal its fate from the get-go, limiting future employment and social prospects.

But odd monikers are on the rise, thanks to modern society's obsession with standing out.

"Parents are trying to be original, almost branding their kids in an era where names are viewed on the same level as Twitter handles or a website URL," writer Sabrina Rogers-Anderson said.

She's authored The Little Book of Bogan Baby Names, chronicling some 200 eyebrow-raising choices Australian parents have made when it comes to christening their new arrivals.

They range from the misspelt to the backwards, and aspirational to those containing random apostrophes.

Far from being harmless fun, Ms Rogers-Anderson believes a bogan name can impact a child's future. And she's not alone.

Bogan culture in Australia is celebrated in pop culture, like in the show Bogan Hunters (pictured) but research suggests judgment is often passed on bogan names.
Bogan culture in Australia is celebrated in pop culture, like in the show Bogan Hunters (pictured) but research suggests judgment is often passed on bogan names. Supplied

Multiple studies from around the world have found links between non-traditional names and employment, social and economic outcomes.

The first such research was conducted in 1948 when Harvard University looked at the life outcomes of 3300 recent graduates, and found those with unusual names were more likely to have failed their studies or gone on to have negative psychological experiences.

Since then, countless studies have delivered similar findings from names impacting choice of career, school grades, earning potential and other quality of life factors.

In the Australian context, Ms Rogers-Anderson said the connotations placed on bogan culture can sometimes be negative.

"We all have a bit of bogan in us," she said. "But you can take it too far when it comes to names. A name really matters at the end of the day."


Names that sound like they've come from a family with a low socio-economic status can lead others to draw negative or unflattering conclusions, experts say.

Northwestern University researcher David Figlio said people take subconscious cues about others based on their name due to evolution.

"We're hardwired to try to figure out in a heartbeat whether or not we want to trust somebody, whether we want to run from somebody," Mr Figlio told LiveScience.

Research conducted by Shippensburg University found a correlation between popular first names and lower rates of juvenile criminal behaviour.

And it has little to do with race. Children with unusual, uncommon or unpopular names were more likely to engage in criminal behaviour, the study found.

It might be that the kids in question are acting out because they dislike their names or because they're treated differently by peers as a result of their names.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2012 said names carry a lot of information that the brain quickly assesses.

"A name activates a rich set of semantic information - from connotations of the bearer's age to intellectual competence, race, ethnicity, social class - which impacts impression formation and evaluation."

Parenting columnist Sabrina Rogers-Anderson has written a book chronicling popular bogan baby names.
Parenting columnist Sabrina Rogers-Anderson has written a book chronicling popular bogan baby names. Supplied

We all have a bit of bogan in us, Sabrina Rogers-Anderson says, but the growing trend of unusual baby names might be limiting for a child's future prospects.

San Diego University researcher Jean Twenge said names are strongly tied to personal identity and levels of self-content.

"People who particularly dislike their name - and also if other people think it's an odd and unlikeable name - that can cause some problems," Dr Twenge said.

"They tend not to be as well-adjusted."

Ms Rogers-Anderson said employers had told her they tend to overlook applications from people with bogan-esque names.

"They say they can't help but judge someone based on their name. They will overlook a CV with a bogan name on it. It sounds terrible but it seems that's the way of the world."


Like coming up with an Instagram username that isn't already taken, it seems some parents are determined to have a one-of-a-kind name for their kids.

Ms Rogers-Anderson said the trend of taking a traditional name and changing the spelling is growing.

"It's really hard for the kids when parents take Rebecca and whack in a Y and an H or something, damning them to a lifetime of having to spell it," she said.

Also popular is spelling a common name or word backwards to give it an exotic twist.

Some examples are Trebor, or Robert in reverse, and Legna, which is Angela backwards, she said.

In a New York University study, researchers found people with names that were easier to pronounce and spell often had better jobs.

"When we can process information more easily, when it's easier to comprehend, we come to like it more," psychologist Adam Alter explained to Wired magazine.

As time goes on, it seems many parents live to regret a unique spelling. A UK survey of 3000 parents found 20 per cent were distressed over the odd or unusual spelling they'd chosen.


A baby's name says as much about the parents as it does the child, parenting educator Michael Grose said.

The founder of Parenting Ideas is trained on the topic of "generational poverty", which looks at trends associated with successive familial eras of low socio-economic status.

"Those people tend to see their kids as possessions and the notion of naming your child in a really different way is linked to that," Mr Grose said.

"They also typically struggle letting go of their kids. So in a sense, a child's name says a lot about the parents' value as well."

It's not just parents from poorer backgrounds who are culprits. In many cases the name reflects mum or dad's own values and backgrounds.

Dr Twenge said naming was in many cases "a proxy for the parents' philosophy on life in general".

"The parent who says 'I want my kid to be unique and stand out' will probably have a parenting style that emphasises uniqueness and standing out. So it ends up building on itself."


Marquette University research indicated that common names were seen as the least unique but the best liked, and people with them the most likely to be hired in job vacancy scenarios.

"The name an individual carries has a significant impact on how he or she is viewed and conceivably whether or not the individual is hired for a job," it found.

"Our findings also suggest that when selecting, parents may want to reconsider choosing (a name that is) distinctive."

Parents should spend a lot more time pondering the long-term implications for their children, Mr Grose said.

"I call it the boardroom test - imagine your kid walking into an important meeting and introducing themselves, then picture the reaction of others," he said.

If you think Chardonnay or Hennessy might raise an eyebrow or two, perhaps reconsider it.

Just like with fashion, trends come and go when it comes to names, Mr Grose said. You don't want to give your kid the moniker equivalent of leg warmers or the safari suit.

"Pick a name that will last the test of time and that won't go out of fashion. Think long term.

"You get one chance to make a good first impression and a name has a lot to do with that," he said.


On the spectrum of bogan names, Ms Rogers-Anderson said there are many categories from the classic - think Chontelle and Dwayne - to the misspelt, like Ashtyn and Caughtnay.

Another popular trend is the mashup name. Jarren, a combination of Jarrod and Darren, is one example for a boy, while Clarabella and Janessa are possibilities for girls.

Just plain made-up names are a thing too, from Brindley to Talise, while 'urban legend' names are those we've all heard about but sincerely hope aren't true, like ABCDE - pronounced Ab-si-dee - and La-a, where the hyphen is pronounced as 'dash'.

By far the most bogan examples are vice names, where everything from Jack Daniel to Chardonnay or Shiraz are on the table.

And the aspirational name is another fun category, from Mercedes to Armanny.

News Corp Australia

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