What’s in a last name? Well according to Georgetown University’s professor of marketing, Kurt Carlson, they determine how we perceive ourselves in society.
According to Carlson:
People whose last name appears early in the alphabet think standing in line is silly because they were privileged to be at the front of lines as children. Those with last names toward the end of the alphabet—who were forced to the end of lines as children—act more quickly to secure a good spot in a line and are content to wait in line to preserve their spot.
In one study, Carlson and his team offered $5 and a bottle of wine to participate in a 30-minute study. Those whose with late-lettered surnames responded more quickly to the offer. The same results occurred when graduate students were offered free college basketball tickets.
And those with late-lettered last names are not the only ones who share this mentality. People whose names fall in the center strive to have a name closer to the front of the alphabet. When asking a group of “mid-alphabet” people if they could choose a new last name, most people chose to have a name earlier in the alphabet. And the women in the same group said they would choose a husband with an “early alphabet surname,” since the women believed these men to be “better off.”
And this is not the first study to study the effect of surname placement. In 2007, after a study titled “What’s in a Surname,” British journalist Richard Wiseman polled Daily Telegraph readers to determine, “are the Abbots and Adamses of the world likely to do better than the Youngs and the Yorks?”
With 15,000 responses, Wiseman discovered that those whose surnames were toward the beginning of the alphabet “rate[d] themselves as significantly more successful overall than those with surnames starting with lowly, end-of-the alphabet initials.”
But to those who happen to land towards the end of the alphabet, have faith. Wiseman says, “Well, as a Wiseman, and therefore someone with a lifetime’s experience of coming towards the bottom of alphabetical lists, I take some comfort from the fact that the effect is very small.”
After all, some of our greatest presidents include George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and present-day Barack Obama.