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The Pros & Cons of Having an Uncommon Name

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wilfrid Laurier chapter.

Having a unique name is like wearing a fluorescent pink unitard in public, except you can’t change out of it nearly as easily.

My name “Ria” means “joy” in Malay, which matches my award-winning personality. But it’s a common Indian name so I get “the nod” from other Indians. “The nod” is a form of acknowledgement from people of the same culture.

“Your name is Ria? You must be Indian” someone will say as they vigorously nod and smile.

I, of course, vigorously nod and smile back.

Here in Canada, my two-syllable name is considered “foreign,” like so many others. And having something unique to yourself has its perks, as well as its downsides.

The Good

1. You don’t have to worry about someone in your social circle sharing your name

Y’know those people who have to go by “Laura M” or “Kate B” because someone else shares their name? Not a problem for us. At work, at school and with friends, we relish in the fact that nobody has to use our last name.

2. It’s easier to create accounts online

If you have a common name, you’re pretty much relegated to a username like EmmaJohnson1833892489. Not having to spend 25 minutes checking for a halfway decent account name is a super underrated timesaver.

3. It’s a good way to bond with people

The aforementioned “nod” is always a good way to make friends, especially if your name holds cultural significance. But sometimes it’s just a simple way to make small talk while telling people about yourself.

“You have a pretty name.”


Such exchanges are especially riveting.

Two Girls Sipping Tea Coffee Mugs Cozy
Molly Longest / Her Campus

The Bad

1. People can never pronounce it

The dreaded introduction usually starts with a confused squint as the person reads your name. They then attempt to pronounce it and you have to politely correct them. Other times, you’ve met the person before but they can’t remember how to say your name, so they studiously avoid ever mentioning it.

2. It affects your career prospects

People who have common “caucasian-sounding” names on a resume are more likely to get interviewed. They are seen as having better resumes and more experience than someone with the same credentials, but a more unique name. People like to judge others based on appearance and if they don’t have a picture, they rely on your name to predict your ethnicity.

3. You can never find your name in a gift shop

Pretty please gift store, all we want is something with our name on it, from a keychain to a shot glass. For a lot of people, that just means a quick trip to any souvenir shop. For us? It means painstakingly customizing every order and paying double the price. I love collecting souvenirs from every place I’ve visited and I’d be lying if I said that the thought of seeing my name etched onto an overpriced trinket didn’t excite me.

I like having a unique name and the fact that it means “joy” gives me more things to joke about. But I understand why it can be frustrating for so many people.

The burning question on my mind is: Should Phoebe from Friends have changed her name to “Princess Consuela Banana Hammock?”

Let me know your thoughts!

Ria Visweswaran

Wilfrid Laurier '22

Ria is a second-year student with a passion for the arts and literature. Her favourite things include baby elephants, purple tulips and raspberry tea. When she's not reading, you can find her perusing the campus for good coffee spots.
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Sarah McCann

Wilfrid Laurier '20

Sarah is a fourth year Communications and Psychology major at Wilfrid Laurier University who is passionate abut female empowerment. She is one of two Campus Correspondents for the Laurier Her Campus Chapter! Sarah loves dancing, animals, photography, ice cream, and singing super obnoxiously, in no particular order.