Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Winners and Losers in the name game

...[I]n 1958, a New York City father named Robert Lane decided to call his baby son Winner. The Lanes, who lived in a housing project in Harlem, already had several children, each with a fairly typical name. But this boy—well, Robert Lane apparently had a special feeling about him. Winner Lane: How could he fail with a name like that?

Three years later, the Lanes had another baby boy, their seventh and last child. For reasons that no one can quite pin down today, Robert decided to name this boy Loser. Robert wasn't unhappy about the new baby; he just seemed to get a kick out of the name's bookend effect. First a Winner, now a Loser. But if Winner Lane could hardly be expected to fail, could Loser Lane possibly succeed?

A fascinating two-part article in Slate exploring the impact of a child's first name, particularly a distinctively "black" name.

Part One: A Roshanda by Any Other Name
Part Two: Trading Up

The authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, have a new book called Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, that also seems worth a read once I find a copy.

(via Things Magazine)

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