15 January 2011


Having an unusual name for the time and place in which you live can have some adverse social consequences.

What is unusual about your name?

My online name of "Via" might seem quite unusual to you.  Yet my real name is also quite unusual, at least in the spelling of my first name and in the social and cultural context of my surname.

My parents have never liked anything too ordinary or too common, or too unusual.  They intentionally gave my siblings and I traditional first names but chose to spell them in a less common than usual way.

The main adverse consequence of this has been that my brother, sister and I frequently have the inconvenience of having to spell our names out to people to ensure that our personal details are recorded correctly.

I have the added problem of also having to spell out the surname I acquired from my husband.  Even when I spell my surname out clearly, the person recording it often writes it down incorrectly, probably because my accent is different from their own.  I am also frequently asked to pronounce my surname for people when they have only seen it written down.

What has a bearing on your popularity - or unpopularity?

Are you more likely to feel comfortable with the common, or well-known, than the unusual?

BBC News - 10 Christian names you don't really hear

Time - Can your name make you a criminal?

If you crave acceptance and approval yourself, why might that be the case?  Is your name a common or uncommon one in the society in which you live?

What are your views on popularity?

Do popular people never stand outside the society in which they find themselves, except, in one sense, when the media portrays them as a "celebrity"?

Perhaps it is just that people we perceive as popular, at least in the eyes of others, try to "fit in" rather than to stand out.  Do you think this to be the case? 

Are people more likely to be popular, particularly through the media, when they stand out from the crowd?

Is popularity sometimes a sign of mediocrity?

Do you dare to be different?

If you consider yourself to be unpopular, is it more likely to be the case that you are lonely?  Perhaps you do not feel lonely at all, but rather misunderstood or out of place in the cultural atmosphere of your surroundings.

BBC - Is there a genius in all of us?

Wikipedia article - Unpopularity

My husband has always been one of the most stable, pleasant, considerate and consistent people I have ever known.  He is quite happy being alone, too, being independently minded and enjoying a quiet time in his vegetable patch after work, as a way of relaxing.

He has good interpersonal skills and technical skills.  He likes to know the details of how things work.  At school, he was elected as a prefect and as deputy head boy, though he has never wished to gain elected office in adulthood.  He also says he did not really seek it at school.  He was also in a few reasonably successful local rock bands in his younger years.

No-one would ever call him unpopular.  Even his headmaster called him "a very good person".  But has his common first name and his "ordinary" Australian appearance, upbringing and accent had something to do with his popularity?

We have both found that people treat us differently depending on whether we dress in a conservative way or in something more unusual.  In his late teens and early thirties, my husband had longer hair than at other times.  People who did not know him well, especially service providers, often treated him with less friendliness and less courtesy, and with more caution, when he had longer hair than when it has been shorter.

Courtesy is something that is important whether we feel ourselves, and others, to be popular or unpopular, whatever our name, appearance or accent, or theirs.  But how easy or difficult do you find courtesy to be?

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