x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

What's in a name? Ask Newt or Mitt ...

According to recent research from psychologists in Germany, your name can indeed impact your love life, if you are looking for online romance.

Fate has a delicious way of connecting life events with people who have well-suited names. William Patrick Wynn was elected mayor of Austin, Texas in 2003. You can see why, his name is Will Wynn.

In less salubrious circumstances, US Representative Anthony Weiner admitted that his name was rather unfortunate when it was revealed that he had been sending naughty pictures of his erm, wiener, to women from his mobile phone. Was providence to blame? Probably not. Married men, whether or not they hold political office, shouldn't be sending lewd images to other women. But according to recent research from psychologists in Germany, your name can indeed impact your love life, if you are looking for online romance. If you want to increase your response rate go for a "classy name", they advise, such as Alexander or Charlotte rather than Mandy or Justin. People often gravitate to others with names similar to themselves: I know a Shahid married to a Shahida. And you are more likely to marry someone with the same surname as you.

According to psychologist Dr Brett Pelham, an analyst for research firm Gallup, people have a tendency to follow professions that resemble their first names, meaning that lawyers called Laura and dentists named Dennis are especially common. Some of it is ego: we are subconsciously attracted to professions that sound like we do. Some of it is that people have expectations of us based on our names, and we live up to those expectations. Usain Bolt certainly lived up to his name.

Here's some fodder for your water cooler chat on Sunday: how many people do you know whose names eerily reflect their careers? The Lord Chief Justice in the UK, the country's most senior judge, is called (wait for it) Lord Judge. One of the UK's previous ambassadors to Sudan and Jerusalem had a deeply aspirational name given the conflicted regions he was posted to - perhaps he took up the positions inspired by his name: Richard Makepeace.

This is all on my mind given that in the US, the Republican candidates are vying for their party's presidential nomination. The question is, can a man named after an amphibious creature or one that sounds like a baseball accessory become the leader of the world's most powerful country?

When Barack Hussein Obama was running for the presidency in 2008 he, too, was conscious that his name might affect the public. At a charity dinner a few weeks before the election, he quipped: "I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think that I'd run for president." And his last name, resonant of America's most wanted man of the time, Osama bin Laden, was used by his political opponents to turn off voters. Nonetheless he made it into office, so there is hope among Republicans that amphibians and baseball gloves can also win over the electorate.

I understand why they may have chosen these more friendly, "everyday" monikers. As they go about attacking the political "elites", it would hardly do for them to let everyone know that their actual first names are the posh sounding Newton and Willard.

If they'd been really smart they would have cut straight to three letter acronyms that are bestowed on the most favoured of the presidents such as FDR. It is rumoured that Lyndon B Johnson on arrival in Washington as a fresh congressman told an aide simply to refer to him in press releases as LBJ. It seems to have worked to propel him to the top. NLG or WMR? We'll let the voters decide.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk