What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespere put the oft quoted words into the mouth of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, scene 2 btw) but do we really think that when it comes to the names of the pupils in our classes? Have we not looked down the register and judged the child by its name? A name is something that we can do little about, it is a label that is pinned on us for life and like it or not other people judge us by it.


If you see a name with an odd spelling, a copy of a celebrity or with an americanism to it it can be tempting to think certain things about both the child and their background. So here are a few pitfalls that can be either consciously or unconsciously thought of when first seeing a child’s name.

1. Traditional names give confidence – Katherine, Elizabeth, William, Alexander

2. Names like Charlie, Alfie, Billy, Georgie are what people are known as not their given names.

3. Unusual spellings –  lower class

4. Celebrity names – Beyonce, Peaches and Zowie –  not appropriate for normal people

5. Biblical names – a fine line between traditional and quirky – a Jezebel or a Nebuchadnezzar in Inverness is just not appropriate

6. Double barreled first names – trouble

7. Double barreled surnames – posh or pretentious

8. Culturally appropriate names – sold, traditional family.

9. Culturally inappropriate names – enough said

10. Names what can’t be pronounced – just frustrating


You may think this topic is rather hypocritical coming from someone who uses the name Ceitidh (pronounced Katie) weird spelling but given that it is culturally appropriate to my Gaelic background and easily pronounceable I feel absolved.


The above are pitfalls that people do fall into but it is important that we do out best to try and judge the pupil by their work, attitude and personality and not by their name. I have a number of cases where pupils have conformed to the stereotypes above but many more where I have been proven wrong about my initial assumptions based on their name. So the next time Kairon, Billy, Alice, Chelsea and Indira come into a class try not to put them in a box – you may just be surprised and the label their parents gave them may have no baring on the label you give them.



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