Your Name, Your Ethnicity, Your Class

June 15, 2012 by admin

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”…or would it? Most people believe that their name says a lot about who they are. Find out what your name could say about your ethnicity and class.

Filipinos, having been a colony of Spain for three hundred years naturally like giving their children Spanish names. ‘Rafael’, ‘Bea’ (pronounced Be-ya) and ‘Gino’ are very popular. As most of the ultra rich Filipinos are also Spanish, some aspiring (some say social-climbing) Filipinos choose to name their kids with the same names that the sons of the rich Spanish families have. Names like ‘Miguel’, ‘Inaki’, ‘Enrique’ and ‘Jaime’.

Unbeknownst to most people, Filipinos generally think you should only take on Spanish names if you really are mestizos i.e. lighter skinned, light haired, tall and with ‘high noses’. The parents of children with ‘rich Spanish family’ names who look very Filipino though i.e. flat nosed, dark skinned, dark haired and short are often snickered at behind their backs.

So in a way, whatever name you are given in the Philippines is somewhat indicative of the ethnicity and socio-economic class you are in. They also betray parental aspirations to what is perceived as a ‘better life’ or ‘ideal person’. It must be a very interesting exercise if we were to go through the names of registered births to determine trending patterns. Imagine deciphering a culture’s thinking simply by the commonest names found on the birth register.

The United Kingdom is a country where I feel people have held onto the tradition of keeping names. Consistently, old names remain contemporary sounding with generations of British parents naming their children with age-old names like James, Elizabeth, George and Victoria.

These British names are taken from tradition – such as the bible or the names of saints such as Peter, John, Catherine and Margaret, or from old Germanic, Gaelic or Celtic traditions. As of 2010, these names have amazingly survived into contemporary times with the most popular names being Oliver, Jack, Olivia, Sophie and Emily.

It was only when I learned more about the British culture that one’s name was often a dead giveaway to the class that people were born in. Names like Jason, Tracy and Michelle are considered working class. Nigel, Simon and Catherine are decidedly middle class whilst Camilla, Alexandra, Tristan or Toby are decidedly upper class.

Moreover, the upper classes apparently have the habit of giving their children three first names and what is known as the double-barrelled surname i.e. two surnames separated by a hyphen like Palmer-Tomkinson. The aristocrats have even longer names. Prince William’s full name is William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. I am glad by virtue of his being Prince of Wales, he is affectionately referred to as ‘Wills” and that no one dares to take the mickey by calling him Prince Willy.

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