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Meet Dennis, My Dentist

Why did you decide on your particular career (job; what you do for money)? Perhaps you choose it because your mother or father did the same thing (my father was a teacher, I am a teacher). Perhaps you choose it because someone you admired (had high respect for or a high opinion of) also did that sort of work.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, it was because of your name.

I know, it sounds crazy, but your name can actually effect what you become in life.

For example, as Lucy pointed out a few years ago, if you are a dentist, you’re much more likely to be named Dennis than John or Peter (43% more likely, according to one study). There are more George’s who are geophysicists than Henry’s, and more Henry’s who work in hardware stores than Bill’s. (And although researchers haven’t studied this yet, there are probably more builders named Bill than Johnny.)

Social psychologist Brett Pelham’s research discovered these strange-but-true links (connections) 10 years ago. He called it “implicit egotism.” (Implicit means implied, or suggested but not actually stated explicitly for you. Egotism refers to thinking of ourselves as being very important.)

Could it all be true?

I know an accountant named Abrahams (three of them, actually).

If you ask people, they will say that their names had nothing to do with (no relation to) their career selection (choice). If you tell them it may have, they will probably think you are a little crazy. Or really stupid.

But from a psychological point of view, it makes perfect sense (is very reasonable or logical). We are attracted to things that have qualities or characteristics that we also have. We like people like us.

But there’s even more: All things being equal (assuming all other conditions are the same or the situation is identical), an Eric will more likely marry an Erica and a Charlotte will fall in love with a Charles.

Oh, and your name also affects whom you choose to do business with. My doctor’s first name is Jeffrey. My optometrist’s last name is Matsumoto.

It gets stranger: there are more Florence’s in Florida than in other states than would be predicted by chance (that would happen if the distribution (presence) of first names were random across states), and more Louie’s in Louisiana.

People born on February 2nd (2/2) are disproportionately (more than would be predicted statistically) found in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and more people born on March 3rd (3/3) live in Three Forks, Montana, than you should expect to find there. (Lucy has already reported that names can affect the products we buy and even the grades we get in school.)

Does “name-job similarity” hold (is it a fact) in other languages? I don’t know if researchers have looked at the question, but there is no reason to think it is not true. Will more Pedro’s in Peru become plomeros (plumbers) than Jose’s?  Probablemente (probably).

I don’t want to become carried away with this (try to apply this to too many things; go crazy with it). Perhaps some similarities are just coincidences (things that happen at the same time by luck or chance). Is it likely that I live in Los Angeles and become a linguist because Lawrence is my middle name? (Or, for that matter, did Lucy?)

Did my ancestors (relatives born before I was, many years ago), the McQuillans, go from Ireland to Minnesota for a similar reason? Did my father, Patrick, work part-time at the post office for 25 years due to the P in his name? (He was a physical education teacher, by the way.) Perhaps.

Do you see any of these “unrelated” connections in your own life? In your own job?


P.S. My dentist’s name is actually not Dennis. Her first name begins with an S, so we can’t explain her choice of career from her name. But why did I choose her as my dentist? Could it be because her last name begins with…an M?

Photo credit: Model and film star Megan Fox, with (model) Marilyn Monroe tattoo, Wikipedia CC

27 Responses to “Meet Dennis, My Dentist”

  1. Peter Says:

    Dear Jeff ,
    It is way more complicated than that.There are a lot of outside factors that influence the career or job you take.Sure ,perhaps  at some subconscious level  the name you carry has a slight influence on the job you choose. But,basing the whole job choosing process on that ,sounds a bit cheesy to me.

    The theory that the article is trying to put forth has no scientific  ground. I mean, what is the logic behind it?
    Are there any sicentifeic prooves that back up the idea.I don’t think so.
    You might as well claim that the job people take depends on their family names or even the food they eat.

    No,it can’t be it!!

    It is Rediculous!!!

    For example 
    My name is Peter and most definitly  I don’t want to become a pan handler :))

    See , how phony the whole theory sounds.

    No , believe you me ,it is not that simple. There must be more to it.

    My understaning is ,The carrer you select is totally subjectve hinging on a lot of variables that the article has failed to factor in such as:
    The Country you live in
    The Culture you grew up into 
    The  Education system you are brought up with
    The Religion you are raised with
    The values you are adopted to
    And , the most importsnt of all , the resources you have access to.

    It has nothing up do with the random selection of names at birth!!!

    You see, what I m trying to pull here 

    It can’t be it!!!


    The homeless :)) 

    P.S. interesting post , totally a brain teaser. I enjoyed it .It was a bit challenging for me to write down my thoughts on the subject.

    Thanks Jeff

  2. Betty Says:

    Dear Jeff

    I could not stop laughing when I was reading your article above.

    Thanks for this interesting and entertaining story.  I hope you will allow me to use the contents in one of the humourous speeches in my Toastmasters club meetings.

    Jeff I would like to thank you also for directing us to Lucy’s blog article  “What’s in a Name? Maybe A Lot!” posted on Wednesday 2 January 2008.

    I enjoy reading emiliano’s and everyone’s messages.

    One of the writer’s name is ‘esl-robert’.  I want to thank him for his website.  I need every good English website to help me improve my English.

    Jeff I am grateful for your decision to allow us accessibility to all the old blog posts.  There are lots of treasure in there.

    I don’t know if my name ‘Betty’ (I chose it myself, my parents do not know any English) was a ‘better’ or ‘bad’ choice.  I was hoping ‘Betty’ would make my life better.  Sometimes it seems to work – I do feel better occasionally.  However, sometimes it seems to mean ‘bad’ because I have failed my English grammar test many times.

    Thanks again, Jeff, I must go to the wet market before all the food being snapped up by the eager shoppers.

    Betty :)

  3. Dan Says:

    Hi guys,

    I do not know, I am like scratching my head.

    I am thinking at the two presidential candidate Mr. Mitt and Mr. Barack Hussein. I do not see anything in their names that goes with being President
    By the way, interesting to see the RNC in Tampa and this week the DNC in Charlotte. Two very nice city I did not know.

    Thanks Ciao!

  4. parviz Says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks Jeff for the fanciful topics.

    I never cease to be amazed by the topics you usually come up with for the ESL podcast. your magical words value a lot to us.

    now thinking back, I think my life is totally being defined by my name. I was born Morad (desire, hope or wish). But Right then my parents chose me another name Parviz (undefeated). being the youngest son born in the family my parents showered me with a lot of attention. My mother used to tell me this story into my ear that I would become a big man one day. My mothers Talk’s turned into a big desire in my mind for leading a successful life. An effort that I have never stopped doing till now. I failed many times in my life, but i have never been a failure. now, if you are a psychologist, you may say I have this sort of implicit egotism. But, I really think that scenario is true for me. My name’s Initials, P does not affect my career, as I am a teacher, and none of my parents were teachers.

    I really careful of picking up things which help me move into the direction of my life, No matter their name. Cause I also think that is ridiculous.

    We usually attract things to our life which are in same vibration with our thoughts. our subconscious mind magnetizes every thing has those vibration. so if your a person believing in name-letter initials, odds are pretty good, you will get more of them.

    To that one I have to say YES and No to that question, having said that people will become what they believe.


    P.S. I am new here in this site, can any of you give my some practice to betterment my writing skill?

  5. Eri Says:

    Thank you for interesting story about names.

    In my country, Japan, I don’t think there is a coincidence like you posted above, because we use KANJI( which was created in China) not alphabet.
    We are usually named used Kanji or Hiragana( which was originally created in Japan)

    However, I know only one person whose name may be related to his career.

    His name was KAZUO SATO.
    His name’s KAZU uses the letter of Kanji means numbers, and O means man.
    Then he was my Math teacher of a highschool!

    I thought that he was born to become a math teacher.

    I’m not good at writing in English, so do you understand my English?

    I want to thank you and ESL staff, and I’ll keep listening and reading ESL POD to improve my English.


  6. Val Says:

    That’s nonsense. I have no evidence of these fenomena in my life. Noone around me has a job which initiates with the first letter of their name, and so on. That’s the fact- there are not such similarities in Russian. It’s just stupid of the native English speakers to choose a job, a partner, or a city by first letter of their names, even if is’s intuitive not intentional. There is no surprise- most of the Americans are not very intelligent. No offense!=)

  7. Betty Says:

    Hi Peter

    I did not know a job title “panhandler” prior to reading your message.

    Asking google ‘what is a panhandler’ led me to a website called  “”.

    At the end of the web page about panhandler, it says:

    “The decision to donate or not to a panhandler is yours alone. You may choose to support charities which offer assistance to the homeless in the form of meals, housing, and medical care, rather than giving money to a panhandler directly. You should not allow aggressive tactics to strong-arm you into donating, but you may want to consider that most panhandlers arrive in their situations due to an unfortunate series of events which could someday happen to you”.

    I don’t know who wrote the message in that website, but the message is so good, it deserves to be taught to all human beings.

    Thanks again, Peter, you have inspired me to look up so many words and places from the internet.

    Betty :)

  8. Peter Says:

    Dear parvize,

    I really enjoyed your article-like comment. I took away a lot!!!

    Let me tell you sth,we are all here to make mistakes ,learn from it and move on.

    If we didn’t make mistakes , English wise , every each one of us would have been “Jeff the second” by now.:)))

    Keep up the good work bro


  9. Peter Says:

    Dear Betty,
    I really appriciate your kind note about me at the end.

    U know ,i said it trying to be funny:))

    Thank you for sharing the information on the word :panhandler

    Here, the word pan handler refers typically to beggars

    Homeless is sb who lives in the street!!

    I m glad that my comments are helpful sometimes.

    Best regards,


  10. Ziba Says:

    hi Parviz,

    your writing is great, Please don’t think about any mistake, the more you write, the more you lear.

  11. Ziba Says:

    oops , the more you learn.

  12. tania Says:

    Hi! We are glad to have new blog friends.
    So, Parviz, Eri…we are waiting for news from you.

  13. tania Says:

    Hi! My name is Tania and the first letter is T.
    I adore the Tranquility (calm, serene). I eat Tomatoes and Tangerines. I drink a lot of Tea. I prefer what is Trendy.
    I accept the people with Tact (to say or do without offending) and Talent (any natural ability or power).
    I like the Tango (music and dance). I love the Trees. I hate the Tension (mental or nervous stress).
    I always admired the Teachers.
    And of course, love me Tender, Tenderly.

  14. Tanya Says:

    Dear Jeff and Lucy,

    Thank you for your wonderful posts!!!

    So, my name is Tanya and I am a Teacher :)

    Love you, guys :)

  15. parviz Says:

    Hi every body
    Dear friends; Peter, Tania and My fellow citizen Ziba
    I really appreciate your warm welcome

    I have always been wanting to make friends with people who are inspiring and motivating.
    even though i knew about ESL podcast, I had no idea how friendly its member would be until now.
    Thanks you guys, now I am relieved.

    best wishes

  16. parviz Says:

    Dear Peter
    I always read your comments. Your comments give me more than any known book about English. Is it because our names have something in common? what do you think?

    to your success

  17. Dan Says:

    Hi there!

    C’mon guys! I am tired of hearing and reading pepeople saying Americans are stupid or Ignorant.

    No one is perfect but with their own imperfections they still remains one of the best country on the planet.

    If I had to choose one country to emigrate in I would pick without doubt the U.S.


  18. Dan Says:

    Hello Eri,

    Your English is good, I was able to understand everything you wrote at first reading.
    Good job! keep posting from your beautiful Country.

    Greetings from Italy.


  19. Dan Says:

    Hello Parviz,

    Are you kidding! you are good. It’s been a pleasure reading you.

    The only thing I can say to you is simply keep writing here the more the better.

    I would like to know wich country are you from?

  20. Dan Says:


    I just wanted to say that the speech of Mr. Clinton yesterday at the DNC was the best I have heard so far between the RNC and DNC.

    He is good, really my hat goes off.

  21. Betty Says:

    Dear Val

    I enjoy reading your messages because you represents young Russia netizens who study English as a second language.

    It is only by reading messages like yours then we know some Russians have a very high standard of English.

    Just one thing that I wanted to say here today is, 

    According to the wikipedia,

     “Selected Social Characteristics in the United States: 2007″. U.S. Census American Community Survey. 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-23

    Russians (self-reported) made up of 1% of the Americans population.

    1% is not very significant, but this 1% of Americans would want to be accepted as Americans.

    There is nothing wrong being unintelligent, but most people do not want to be told that they are unintelligent, I don’t know why.

    I did not believe a single word that Jeff said about the connection between a person’s initial and the job he/she choose.  I only consider it as a tool to make learning a language more interesting.

    The fact that you finally spend some of your valuable time on writing something in English has made Jeff happy.  He wants to know that his students are capable of writing good English.

    Please, Val, if you have time, check out the web page of


    in which it tells us that:

    The New York State Senate adopted a legislative resolution to proclaim April 2012 as Russian-American History Month in New York state.

    Nice talking to you.

    Best regards

    Betty :)

  22. Peter Says:

    Dear parviz,

    I m just trying.
    I don’t know about the first letter deal, but what I do know is that the master mind behind all these :)) is the one and only Jeff. He has created an amicable environment in which we pour out our thoughts knowing that our dear profossers and peers never pass judgment on us,English wise

    I personally thing setting up this blog has been a smart move on Jeff part. It has provided us the oportunity to challeng our writing abilities ,and at the same time ,learn from one another.
    We are all here following one purpose-that is learning ,learning and learning. If you know what I mean

    There is another advantage to it , it gives us the chance to meet our cyber classmates. It gives me a sense of familiarity with the program at large.

    Yours truly ,

    The nincompoop :))

  23. Wislei Says:

    Hi Jeff
    Named ‘Wislei” it has been a pain trying to find a carrer to me. Any suggestion?
    Best regards

  24. Betty Says:

    Hi Praviz

    It takes a lot of courage for us non-native English speakers to write English in this blog.

    So I think everyone who writes here has tried his/her best to overcome the language barrier which is not easy.

    Peter is absolutely right about Jeff providing us a chance to improve our English even faster.

    Just don’t worry too much, keep writing, follow your heart, you will get there.

    I listen to Peter’s remark that no one will judge you here so I write and write everyday, thinking no one will judge me.

    One day, if you find a judgement land on your message, don’t worry, just ignore it, don’t let it interfere with your aim which is to improve your English.  Just continue to keep writing and you will get there.

    Best regards

    Betty :)

  25. tania Says:

    “Unload me brother. I have brought a few
    Plums and these pears for you,
    A dozen kinds of apples, one or two
    Melons, some figs all bursting through
    Their skins, and pearled with dew
    These damsons violet-blue.”

    Christina Rossetti, September

  26. Paul De Smet Says:

    Hey everyone, I enjoy the linguistic side of this article and read it over again.

    My name is Mr De Smet, and first name Paul-Louis.
    I have worked for many years in a textile factory, which produced cloth for jeans wear. And since jeans production has been relocated towards less cost effective countries, I had to choose another occupation and I became a interior-worker or cleaner, which is mainly room service like keeping things clean and tidy (all about five things; cleaning, tidiness, keeping order, to set and hold new standards and safety).
    So long.

  27. Val Says:

    Dear Betty,
    I can assure you that if it were possible almost whole Russian Federation would move to The US without any doubts and thoughts. That’s because Russian people can’t appreciate what they already have. It’s just in the nature of Russian person (and I guess not only Russian, it’s in the nature of every person)-people think that other people has more than he or she has… the neighbor’s wife is more beautiful than his, the house is steadier, the car is cuter, the job is better, life in general is richer, more interesting and full. But it is always not true. So, ordinary Russian person thinks that every American lives in huge mansion, drives Ferrari and has everything he could ever wish. We know, that it’s wrong, there is great poverty in America, like in every other country. That’s why Russian people immigrates to the US. They think that there is eden there.