In 1966, Neil Diamond had his first big hit with “Solitary Man.” I’ve listened to the song a hundred times and more, and while the official lyrics will tell you the first line is, “Melinda was mine…” I still swear he’s singing, “Belinda…”
It makes sense. A hard consonant like “B” is easier to punch than a soft consonant like “M.” Now, Melinda is the more common name (although in 1966 “Belinda” was still in the top 2000 names for girls), but I don’t know that that should really matter.
Over the years I’ve watched characters with my name for the image they project, and for a very long time anyone who showed up on a television show or movie with the name “Belinda” was a nasty piece of work or a prostitute. Shelly Long played a call girl named Belinda in the 1982 comedy “Night Shift,” and in any number of television programs over the years there have been some real witches with my name.
The current sitcom “The Middle” had an overweight, shall we say athletic-looking woman named Belinda on one episode a couple of years ago, and on “Younger” we met an elderly woman named Belinda O’Shea who wrote romance novels, kind of a Danielle Steel character, earlier this summer.
When you have a less-than-common name, you notice things like this.
Several years ago, while I worked in a bookstore, I read a guide to naming your child that told me people think of girls named Belinda as overweight, overly shy and somewhat pathetic.
Well, you can just jump in a lake of fire with that thought.
It’s somewhat strange to me that we have stereotypes for names, yet when I think of someone named “Veronica,” she is slender, with a sweet smile and long, straight hair, and “Giselle” is offbeat, with a sophisticated cap of hair and a throaty laugh. I’ve never known anyone with either of those names, by the way, so the image is purely from popular culture.
When you send out a resume, what image do others form of you from your name in bold letters at the top? Some of my fellow bloggers from other nations or with different ethnicities may fear (or hope) they’ll be identified by race by their name.
Curiously, according to this same book, the name “Jason” has a distinct image of a likable, happy guy, everyone’s friend, despite being the most popular name for baby boys for many years (you’d think commonness would diminish a stereotype), and a rather nasty character in a series of films some time back.
We know and can trace the origins of many stereotypes, and some even have a basis in truth that makes them more difficult to dispel. Judging someone sight-unseen by their name is a subtle prejudice, and makes me wonder what other quiet ways we judge our world, our neighbors, our co-workers without realizing it.
And if I could change my name, what would I choose?
Image Credits: © ivector — stock.adobe.com