Many people say that one’s name defines them. William Shakespeare disagreed. But a given name came bring to mind a certain image before someone even meets the person. For instance, the name Ruby. I imagine a female of the Baby Boomer generation. It can define one’s gender, one’s cultural background, or one’s country of origin. It can define more precise things, such as weight, hair color and skin tone. It can be remembered or forgotten. It can change history even!
Take, for instance, Adolf. This may be a common name in Germany, but I have personally never met one. It is often a name that brings to mind evil, and a tiny mustache. So I decided to look up the name. Look it up for yourself to discover some interesting information.
Using names may be a great way to explore prejudices. Ask students what they imagine when they hear two names. Draw a picture of the two people. Maybe even use two people you know so you can show actual photos. One name is a long name, such as Edward Nathaniel Brown III, and a shorter name, Ed Brown. Does one name make someone think of money and the other think of commonality? Could names be used as prejudgments, such as in a stack of applications to a school or job? Could your high school age students agree or disagree to a blind date when their friend tells them the potential significant others name? Prejudices have been used throughout history as a way to decide certain things about a person, vaguely if they are a good or bad person. Skin color and religion have been two of the most common and most controversial, but could names do the same thing?