The case for and against weird names in China – Eveline Chao
Nominal Determinism is the notion that your name determines your destiny. The idea dates back to the times of ancient philosophy and adds a whiff of fatalism to, say, meeting a woodworker surnamed Carpenter, or reading about Amy Winehouse’s alcoholism. It also ties into debates in the US about whether African Americans should avoid giving their children names like Da’Quan or Shaneequa that are stereotyped as indicative of low socioeconomic status. Studies have found that teachers expect students with such names to do poorly in school, and that such treatment translates to precisely that outcome. People with stigmatized names also experience more hiring discrimination.
In an ideal world, people should feel free to choose any name they like (except maybe those white parents in New Jersey who named their baby “Adolf Hitler”). But perhaps it’s a sense that names determine destiny that has compelled so many Asian immigrant parents in the U.S. to choose safe, “all-American” names for their kids, like Michael or Stephanie. (An Asian-American named Grace Lee even made a movie that touches on this phenomenon, called “The Grace Lee Project,” after noticing the prevalence of other Grace Lees out there.) Behind these names lies an instinct to help your kid assimilate quickly so they can succeed in American society.