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What's in a baby name? A future CEO if you've got the right syllables

Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates listens to a question as he appears with investor Warren Buffett for a town hall style meeting with business students broadcast by the financial television network CNBC at Columbia University in New York November 12, 2009.


Parents-to-be who flip through stacks of baby-name books are trying to engineer a number of things, including: Does the name work with their surname? Will there be too many other Emmas or Jacks in their class? What sounds nice?

New research suggests that their choice might also be laying the groundwork for future corporate success.

The most common names among male chief executive officers are Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce, Fred, Bill, Ron, Christian, Alexander and Don, according to new research from the online professional network LinkedIn, which analyzed more than 100 million user profiles, reports Forbes writer Jenna Goudreau. Many of those successful names are short, one-syllable nicknames. The trend held true for men in retail jobs, too.

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For women, though, the top 10 CEO names were more likely to be two or three syllables: Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia, Carolyn, Pamela, Ann, Cheryl, Linda and Janet, Ms. Goudreau reports.

"It's possible that sales professionals and male CEOs use these shortened versions of their name as a way to be more approachable and accessible to potential clients," Frank Nuessel, a professor of language at the University of Louisville and editor of NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics, told Forbes. "Interestingly, female CEOs appear to prefer to use their full names and not nicknames, which could signify that they want to be taken more seriously and want co-workers to think of them in a more professional light."

If that's not enough to make you nervous, you may want to take a moment to consider whose last name your baby should take. In other recent news, Ms. Goudreau's colleague Meghan Casserly wrote about how your last name may affect your spending habits. If it starts with letters from R to Z, you're more likely to jump at a deal, for instance.

And a last piece of information to pass along to your daughters when they're older: My colleague Wency Leung wrote about how taking your husband's name may set you back professionally, and therefore financially.

Readers, what's in a name? Could a parents' choice of name really set up a child for success - or failure?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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