The further along the process of pregnancy the more we get asked about the little one’s name.
First off, we decided we weren’t going settle on the actual name until we met our little one in person. There’s probably hundreds of subliminal factors that will influence us why we think the child appears to fit a certain name and thus we’re going to rely on those reactions for the final decision.
This usually leads to the reactive followup of what names we’re considering.
Earlier on in the process I quipped it’s an it and we still hold true to that sentiment which is, in part, why no name will be revealed.
The actual process of selecting names for most couples can go one of two ways – either very smooth or very contentious. So far, ours is very diplomatic and, of course, this is likely due to the fact we have a process to it all. Not quite to the point of spreadsheets, but it’s extremely well thought out.
We have a now well worn list of criteria we’re going through to narrow down the scope of possible names. It’s at times actually been quite a fun experience..
Believe it or not, it actually didn’t started out with the question on how do you know what to call your little ball of cells anyhow. Would a good name for a blastocyst ball be Wilson? We could go down the road of typical gestational nicknames like peanut? That just doesn’t seem like us to default to those kind of conventions anyhow. Sure, we’ve made up some interesting psuedonames along the way but none of them have really stuck.
So, if you must refer to them as something, maybe call them padawan for now. It’s a Star Wars term that refers to one part of the relationship that exists between a Jedi and one whom wishes to become a Jedi. It’s a complex scenario that encompasses the duality of practitioner-apprentice, of teacher-student, of mentor-mentee and so on but at a much deeper and spiritual level. It kind of represents what the little one for us for the time being.
It’s also a gender neutral term which is the only reason why my wife will even tolerate me joking about this.
Why is having a neutral important you might ask?
Well, apart from hiding the unborn’s gender for the time being, there’s an actual thought process behind this desire as well as a reaction to how society prejudices people based upon there name.
When we jumped into the actual process of exploring possible names we began with what the implications of having a name are.
We’ve all heard some story of a child who struggled to pronounce their own name — so our first thought was let’s make sure it’s something they, and other little kids, can get out without too much extra effort. I guess you could say the process morphed from there for us from pronunciation, to gender, to prejudice in general…
Certain names can be interpreted by certain people as the pretext to beliefs about one’s race or ethnicity, religion, social status or financial well being, etc. The effects of the assumptions are many times carried over into how these certain people will then treat the person possessing that name.
The phenonmon of how names alone create prejudice in the workplace has been chronicled by Business Insider, the BBC, the Atlantic, the New York Times and a host of others. The psychology behind the responses vary but ultimately it all comes back to simple word association and how we’re subconsciously processing both individually and through our collective social conscious.
A study by New York University study suggests familiar looking and easier to pronounce named people achieve greater workplace success while a Marquette University study correlated just getting hired is affected by a perception of name simplicity. Another study suggested people interpret uncommon names as being less reliable and trustworthy while Shippensburg University found coorelative aspects between uncommon names and juvenile delinquency. Names that are earlier in the alphabet, according to the Economics of Education Review, are given inherent preference overall to those that fall later.
Studies sponsored by several psychology groups in the US concluded white sounding names typically have higher educational acceptance rates, particularly for college, compared to ethinc or unusual names and furthermore there was a bias toward the perception of asian names and away from black and hispanic names, while another European study correlated noble sounding names and in particularly masculine sounding (read: kingly) ones receive better than education and employment opportunities.
Masculine sounding names come with an advantage as well. Several educational studies demonstated masculine and gender neutral perceived names had better acceptance rates throughout higher education and in one case performance as well. The ABA Journal study cited women with gender neutral and masculine sounding names did better than women with feminine names in law, while several business journals have tracked similar results for the hiring processes of women in traditional business fields that were long dominated by men.
The reverse was also found to be correlative in that feminine sounding names resulted better hiring and promotion in traditionally female dominated fields such as elementary education and nursing. Some studies even suggested feminine names benefit children in early education over that of the performance of their masculine named counterparts.
The European Journal of Social Psychology suggested using an initial in one’s name increases people’s perceptions of your intellectual capacity and performance, this is especially true for the inclusion of a middle initial compared to names without one. Some of this is related to the perception of socio-economic standing, however, some of this is the mystery of the initial masks the name and thus removes the gender or ethnic prejudice that might otherwise exist.
If your name is going to potentially influence your entire life it’s important to make sure the initial assignment of a name takes some of that into account.
This was the catalyst for seeking a neutral name.
And, every time we begin to explain this to someone we’re given a queer look by them. Somewhere between, “wow, you’re way overthinking this,” and “you can’t be serious that this is really a problem.”
It is. One does not have to look very far around either to find it. The anti-PC crowd loves to crow about how focusing on it is ruining society which is the most effective way to demonstrate the point that it’s not subtly problematic but some people are actually proud of their bias and bigotry.
Gender neutrality it’s foreign to so many in the United States, particularly those who are anchored to a 1950s or pre-enlightenment 1700s.
This is, in part, linguistic artifact still persisting in American English both because of it’s roots in olde western Germanic languages and the sociocultural integration of other languages into it over time. Gendered words as well as gender-influenced grammar permeated the communication process thus the perceived meanings of words and phrases was colored by the biases resulting from the interpretation of the genderification of the words and grammar.
However, this is not the case in all languages. Japanese, Korean, Turkish, Chinese (in many dialects), as well as Yoruba, Basque, Swahili, Pipil, Quechuan, Dravidian languages among others are naturally gender neutral as well as fictitious language schemas derived from the likes of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, JRR Tolkein, the linguists responsible for the creation of some alien languages in Star Trek among any number of other fictitious works. Gender neutrality has come to exist in some form in regional Finno-Ugric, Scandavian, Karelian and derivatives in regional Baltic Cyrillic as well. It exists in some form of Indo-European languages such as Armenian and some Hungarian, Romanian, Ukrainian dialects as well as regional Russian Cyrillic plus Assamese, Bengali, Maithili, Nepali and Oriya.
It functions even in dialects within some older Latin based languages, as modern Parisian French or Barcelona’s dialect of Castilian Spanish or Iberian Catalan over time dropped many forms genderization from everyday usage – in part possibly because it plays no significant role sociologically and in part more likely because the added effort of including it makes the language more verbose and cumbersome than it necessarily needs to be for modern communication.
So, then why does American English stick with gendered language? Well, in part because human nature resists that type of change and within the splintered dialects that make up American English there includes those who find the notion of adaptation of any kind to be too progressive, too liberal, etc. for them. But, at the same time, new communication patterns influenced by SMS and later Twitter have demonstrated the continued adaption and morphing of the language in ways that include, intentionally or not, the subtle elimination of some genderification.
Our little part in this process, so to speak, is giving our little one an opportunity to succeed, or fail, on their own merits without the unnecessary bias of being prejudged because their name appears like it might be too difficult to pronounce, or sounds too feminine, or too French, or too Christian or whatever else one might believe they perceive when seeing it on a test, or in a form, or as part of an application.
It might seem like with all these rules and restrictions in the name selection process we’d have a difficult time coming up with a name at all — but that’s where it’s actually been most intriguing and satisfying. We actually have a good little list of names that fit at least some of the criteria for us and we’ll be happy to dub the padawan with once we get to meet them in person.