Your name is probably connected to your life’s occupation. Precisely why that is so is the subject of controversy and research.
Jessica Love writes in The American Scholar:
Cleverly designed experiments reveal a so-called baker-Baker paradox: we find it easier to learn that a particular face belongs to a baker than to learn that the same face belongs to a Mr. Baker. The word baker actually means something in a way Mr. Baker does not. Bakers wake up early, tie on their aprons, and bake. This preexisting knowledge constitutes something sturdy to which new associations can be bound. As for Mr. Baker, well we might suppose that he is male and, likelier than not, has an Anglo-Saxton ancestor.
The baker-Baker paradox has two caveats. First, we are considerably better at remembering names if we have assigned them ourselves. This is probably because the relationship between name and person is no longer arbitrary. We may see someone across the room and assign her the name Veronica because she reminds us of someone else named Veronica. This is no different than calling a fluffy creature Fluffy. If only we had more opportunities in life to name other human beings.
But caveat two is of more practical importance: to some extent, our names may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The very arbitrariness of Mr. Baker’s name, for instance, might land him a job. A number of studies have demonstrated that having certain names particularly those that sound ethnic or lower-class (and thus contain demographic information that makes them, well, less than arbitrary to many employers) will hurt job seekers chances of landing an interview. According to economist David Figlio of Northwestern University, a girl whose name sounds more feminine (as determined by a longer length and greater frequency of soft consonants) is less likely to study science than her twin sister with a less feminine-sounding name.
One of the blog post’s commenters suggests “priming” as the key explanation:
Extensive research has gone into what psychologists call ‘priming.’ For example, in one study college students were called into a professor’s office and asked to read one of two articles. One article contained words such as ‘old’, ‘grey’, ‘Florida’, etc. (words associated with old age). The other contained words like ‘young’, ‘quick’, etc. (words associated with youth). Students were video recorded entering and leaving the office and their walking speed was recorded. Students who were made to read the ‘old’ article were statistically likelier to walk slower upon exiting while those who read the ‘young’ article walked faster.
The point is not that reading one article or the other permanently changed their character and mannerisms; rather, you are ‘primed’ to behave in a certain way based on cues that you receive from the environment, even if you don’t consciously notice them. The effects are very temporary.
It’s understandable that scholars are grounding their research into empirical investigations likely to pass muster with other language scientists. And yet something “magical” about the connection between the Word and the Work seems to lurk just under the surface of the article, a ghost as it were.
The fact that personal names are generally non-arbitrary when they are given to babies and that they have been handed down for thousands of years are not disputable. But the notion that the first names were thought to be handed down by God or the gods, and thus of sacred and divine origin, is not mentioned.
Kabbala and other sacred word traditions see the Name as revealing not merely of personality types or social characteristics but of a person’s relationship to the ultimate reality. Many ancient traditions of numerology have sought to apply insights into Name for spiritual edification.
The Name itself is seen as having a “power” to help to create reality. Is there room for this notion today in the investigation of language’s significance? A more integral and holistic semiotics must make room for pre-rational, rational, and trans-rational methodologies of research capable of providing illumination.
In a trans-rational view, perhaps a person finding herself gifted with the name “Baker” may be someone tasked by God to understand her life’s vocation in relationship to the metaphor of baking: applying a fiery energy indirectly rather than directly, creating incubators capable of transforming raw ingredients into nourishing and healing food for the spirit. Our names may give us sacred wisdom for living, not merely subconscious Pavlovian responses to stimuli.