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June 02, 2009



It's also possible that the relative rarity of U-Z surnames is itself a result of nominative determinism, if it turned out that men (in this case it would largely apply to men) with surnames at the end of the alphabet found it more difficult to find a partner and reproduce.

If having a name near the beginning of the alphabet correlates with higher achievement in other fields, and high achievement in other fields correlates with higher reproductive success, then this isn't wholly implausible. Although that isn't the same as saying there's plenty of evidence for it, and it doesn't explain anything.

Iain Coleman

There is a slight advantage in UK elections to having a name near the start of thr alphabet, as you then appear nearer the top of the ballot paper. This is particularly helpful in elections for multiple positions, such as multi-member council wards, but there is still a small advantage even in parliamentary elections. I'm sceptical that this can explain all the over-representation of A-Es in politics, but it does have some effect.

Jon B

With a null hypothesis that they are distributed according to the frequencies in your most popular names table, I made Chi squared test for the 62 footballers for the ranges you supply 7.01 - which with 4 degs freedom means a 13% chance of the footballers names being this distributed - so not really that unlikely.

The 53 different Prime Ministers names are barely enough data to do a proper test, but I got 5.78, which is 21% chance, so also not that unlikely a distribution.

Admit my figures were not exactly the same as yours - had to make some guesses - are "Roseberry" and "Salisbury" surnames ? Is Bonar Law a "b" or an "l" etc. !


On MPs in the 2001 parliament (sorry my sheet was missing 2005 for some reason) I get 29%, 20%, 22%, 22%, 7%.

The cricketers are close to the average, but only about 1/8 come from England, so perhaps that changes things.

On PMs it could just be coincidence, or maybe names were more a-e biased in the old days - but then again blair, brown, callaghan, etc. Did you do Douglas Home or Home?

US presidents seem more biased in the F to Js,

James Hamilton

The devil take your stereo, Dillow, and your record collection. But if you run through a list of British classical composers, the predominance of names beginning with "B" is worthy of remark.


Vaughn Williams counts two, I suppose?


World's top 100 golfers splits (% and no.) 18, 25, 22, 21, and 12. Of course that's from all around the world, but no A-E bias there.


A check of the 183 Nobel prizes in physics shows the following split, in percentages: 27.3,17.5,19.7,26.8,8.7.
So again, the U-Zs seem under-represented, unless (which I doubt) U-Zs are rarer among global surnames than UK ones.
(Source = http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/)
@ Jon B: I use the family name of Lords, so Rosebery is a Primrose, Salisbury a Gascoyne-Cecil etc (Douglas Home is a D).
Thanks for your estimate of statistical significance, but a Bayesian would demur. Sean's prior is not the null hypothesis, but the view that names matter. So the low chances you estimate probably strengthen his view.

kardinal birkutzki

Just a quick one:

for some unknown reason (which I endorse, whatever it may be!) your website appears much less often now on "politicshome"). This means I am now much less likely to stumble onto your pinko-Igottadgereeinppe-nonsense.

And this post should be a case in point for everyone: says nothing; means nothing; proves nothing....er, except that Dillow's a damn fine, clever chap with an Oxford degree in ppe................

on the other hand, as an exercise in no-nothing ineptitude resulting in a great job at the Investors' Chronicle, I use your site as an example to my students that ANYONE can succeed...


As anyone will tell you, it's got nothing to do with your surname. What counts is your first name, and whether someone can rememeber it....


Is "Sean Tully" a misspelling of Chantelle?


No, but I think "kardinal birkutzki" might be, dearieme.

Tom Addison

Lucky me, eh?


My new name is Aaron Aardvaak.

free online store

nominative determinism?


lol yeah, I think it is about time I added ! to the start of my name


This is just one idea, and perhaps displays no more than my limited imagination. If there are better ideas out there, that amount to more than "implement something called "market socialism" and then - alacazam! - full employment!" then I'd love to hear them. http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

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