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Top 10 Bad Boy Names

By Sunny Chanel |

080125-bully-vmed1pwidecNote to self – keep my kid away from Alec, Ernest, and Ivan. They’re all trouble makers…or that’s what a new study would lead one to believe.

A recent study has apparently found that boys who were given ‘unpopular, uncommon or feminine’ names  are at a higher risk for being ‘bad’ and are more likely to spend time in the slammer.  The top ten bad boy names are:


“Shippensburg University professor David Kalist’s report in Social Science Quarterly shows that “unpopular names are likely not the cause of crime”, but he explains that factors often associated with those names can “increase the tendency toward juvenile delinquency.””

The study also points out that oddly named boys are also “ridiculed by peers, come from families of low socioeconomic status and face discrimination in the workforce.”

As Johnny Cash penned sang in the classic ode to odd names, “I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue.”

Do you think this study is totally silly or does it have merit?


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About Sunny Chanel


Sunny Chanel

Since 2007 Sunny Chanel has written thousands of pieces for Babble. She currently writes for Babble's celebrity, moms, and Disney voices sections and has her own blog aptly named Sunny Chanel. You can find Sunny on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sunny's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Top 10 Bad Boy Names

  1. ceecee says:

    Anecdotally… I know:

    1 Alec = holy terror (teenaged delinquent)
    1 Malcolm = brilliant nerd (13 year old prodigy)
    2 Lukes = one 12-year-old little prick (bully) and one = obnoxious preschooler

    1 Walter = Adorable, quiet, sweet kindergartener

    All of these children belong to friends/neighbors and all but one are very high on the income scale (to address the point about low socioecon status made in the post.) The jerks all have parents who – in my not-so-humble opinion – have cultivated obnoxious behavior since day one. The sweeties (Malcolm and Walter) have strict parents with very high standards for behavior and manners.

  2. GP says:

    talk about profiling! bad news…shame on people!

  3. Michelle says:

    Sorry to nitpick but Mr. Cash did not pen “A Boy Named Sue”. That honor goes to Shel Silverstein.

  4. SE says:

    I was surprised to see that my husband has one of these names–he’s a Ph.D. physicist.

  5. Jennifer says:

    It’s funny. There have been studies like this for decades. I remember writing a paper in high school about some study that found that teachers tended to give better grades to students with typical names (vs. unusual names). It was probably some psych experiment where teachers were given tests or papers with fake student names on them…for whatever that’s worth.

  6. Abby@AppellationMountain says:

    The problem is that names aren’t fixed. Trends come and go. Walter might be downwardly mobile in one decade, and surprisingly fashion forward in another. (Rainn Wilson has one, after all.) And a few of these names are so common – Luke, for example – that saying Luke is bad news is like saying that every boy born in the month of June is doomed to lead a life of crime. I’m not looking at his data, but I can’t imagine that these names would “read” the same in 1920, 1950 and 1990. After all, Gertrude was one the height of fashion and Isabella an outlandish choice.

  7. confused says:

    Ok, Garland, Ernest, Kareem, Tyrell. Those are odd names. Since when is Luke or Alec and odd name?

  8. At least three of those names are common for African American boys. African American men are incarcerated at a stunning rate, so I doubt it’s the name.

  9. Sheri says:

    Who in their right mind names their child Garland???

    I usually try to not make a judgement here, afterall, it isn’t my child, but Garland???

    My husband wanted to name our son after his uncle, whose name was ok in the nickname sense but the proper name, not so much. Hubby didn’t get it until I asked if it would be easier if we beat him up on the bus before school.

  10. Marj says:

    One of the names we’ll be using for our twins is on this list. I don’t think Malcolm is really all that outlandish. Also, I think names taken out of social context would be misleading.

  11. Manjari says:

    Kareem and Tyrell are not “odd” names at all, confused. They are very common names.

  12. jeannesager says:

    As the sister and cousin of “Alex”es, I can say THEY are the true holy terrors! So they’re kind of close with the Alec!

  13. Brett Singer says:

    And I’d like someone to tell Walter Payton fans that “Walter” is a “feminine” name.

  14. cyn-diego says:

    What a terrible article — come on, Babble, you should have higher standards.
    You can read the original study here:
    And you’ll see a few things. First, they do NOT say that those names were the worst “criminal” names — they are simply *examples* of names with a low popularity, as opposed to “Michael” which has the highest popularity. There is no indication in the article, in fact, that there WAS a single “Garland” in the juvenile delinquent group at all! In general, the study finds that juvenile delinquents have less popular names — that’s all. Whoop-de-do.
    Which makes me wonder… Would ANY population of rare people have rare names? After all, something is different about the genes/parenting/environment about kids who have problems, that is likely to be reflected in names too. Would the population of kids who scored 1600s on their SATs ALSO have unpopular names? (my intuition tells me it might be even more so!)
    So, what we have is: a half-assed study with over-reaching conclusions (say it with me: “Correlation does not equal causation!”), and a crappy un-researched article parroting some other crappy un-researched article! (sigh)

  15. Malcolm says:

    Back in my country of origin my name, Malcolm, carries the stereotype of a white guy with Scottish ancestry, here in United States, I am a black bad boy! Cool!

  16. Ernesto says:

    My name is Ernesto,,,may that study work for hispanic names?,,,One american told my name was kind of romantic :)

  17. Scout's honor says:

    As a mom to an Alec,I say this was ridiculous stereotyping and I don’t believe one bit of it. Also, we are of high socioeconomic status, both my husband and I have degree from Berkeley, and my son does exceedingly well in school and has never in his life been called on for misbehavior. Like all statistics, you can find a link to anything if you look for it. What’s unfortunate is that these stereotypes are given validity through such studies and are perpetuated by articles such as this one. I wonder who they polled. It must have been my Polish mother-in-law who said he’d be teased (never has happened because smart alec is a term popular from generations ago). As for the study, who the hell has heard of Shippensburg University? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  18. Fact Matters says:

    Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania is a bachelor and masters degree granting institution with a rich history of teaching excellence.

  19. fballismylife says:

    My name is Kareem….not an odd name at all. It means generous in Arabic

  20. Amanda Hill says:

    Gage and Gunner are both bad boy names. I’m sad they didn’t make the list. If my daughter ever brings home a Gunner, I’m locking the doors.

  21. [...] recently released study revealed that naming your new born son a common name may not be bad at all. It can actually be bad [...]

  22. jan horvath says:

    I have a son named Alec, who plays Varsity basketball and baseball, is 6’4″ tall, good-looking intelligent,sweet guy who is quiet and shy. I guess I’d better tell him he’s doomed. How ridiculous. Ever hear of Sir Alec Guinnes?

  23. Mimi says:

    OK I confess, my Alec is a teenage delinquent. But the study hypothesized that feminine names lead to trouble. What’s feminine about any of the names on this list? I mean.. c’mon I don’t see Sue there.. .…Hmm, perhaps this is where I went wrong. If I had named my son Sue he wouldn’t be a delinquent. I am so relieved to be absolved of any responsibility…because, you know, it’s not the kid, nor peer pressure, nor bad parenting, it’s the name the child was given as a baby.. right?

  24. [...] ejsantos on Jul.29, 2009, under Uncategorized This list is on Babble…now I’m not sayin..I’m just [...]

  25. Rebecca says:

    “Ok, Garland, Ernest, Kareem, Tyrell. Those are odd names. Since when is Luke or Alec and odd name?”

    Or Malcolm. What an odd thing for them to say.

    And why would any kid get teased for Luke? I always thought it was cool to be named after a Star Wars character. ;)
    Just playing, just playing.

  26. Debra says:

    Names have different connotations in different cultures and at different times in history — my son Alec was named after Sir Alec Guiness — and Alec Baldwin is not a bad name sake either — my Alec is great is school, sports, and a counselor for troubled teens — none of whom are named Alec!!!

  27. James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil says:

    As always, when people see something they don’t understand, they assume a supernatural explanation for it. This accounts for all religions, numerology, astrology, the WWE, and probably NASCAR. (LOL)

    It seems the more outrageous the supernatural explanation is, the more people that will believe it. As H. L. Mencken said (more or less), “No one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the general public.”

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