Is Kevin the World’s Most Unattractive Baby Name?

January 7, 2012 § 14 Comments

We need to talk about Kevin, which is in the running as the world’s most unattractive baby name.

If not in the world, Kevin certainly is the most unattractive baby name in Germany. Two studies in less than three years have cited Kevin as the most unattractive name imaginable. A quote from a study done in 2009 cites one teacher’s feelings on the name Kevin – towards her own students: “It’s not a name, it’s a diagnosis.” (Unfortunately, the study didn’t elaborate on such an opinion, even though it’s fascinating and sounds, to me, pretty freakin’ rude. Do teachers everywhere treat or view their students differently based on how they perceive their students’ names?)

The latest study involved sending messages to 47,000 members of Europe’s top dating website, eDarling, from fake profiles for people with the following names: Alexander, Kevin, Chantal, Mandy, Dennis, Marvin, Jacob, Charlotte, Emma, Hannah, Max, Justin, and Celina, with all other profile information remaining the same for each sex. The goal was to determine which names got the most clicks, or which ones got the least, and release their hypothesis that “bad baby names” could make you sad and lonely.

Clearly, it’s too late to surprise you that Kevin was the name that got the least clicks (they said “It would seem that people would as soon remain single than date a Kevin”), but read after the jump to see how each name fared with European tastes.

Most Clicked
1. Jacob
2. Alexander
3. Max
4. Charlotte
5. Emma
6. Hannah

Least Clicked
1. Kevin
2. Justin
3. Marvin
4. Mandy
5. Celina
6. Chantal
7. Dennis

Justin can’t get clicks in Europe, but the noted ‘bad boy’ association in the study to Justin Bieber (who, as much as I actually think this kid has a future and I’m proud he’s a good Canadian kids with Canadian values, can still be a little teenage boy sh*t disturber sometimes) hurts the name with eDarling users. Typical popular choices make up the ‘most clicked’ list, and it would seem that Marvin is out of style simply everywhere (I’m wearing my ‘not shocked’ face.)

But as far as I’m concerned, like the recent film starring Tilda Swinton, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, we need to talk about Kevin – primarily because Kevin has always been a name on my personal dislike list, and I know quite a few non-Europeans for whom it’s also deemed among the world’s worst names. I knew a Kevin in school who was a bully, and as I got older the only Kevins I saw were at least a decade older than me, or presented in the form of Kevin Federline. Had you forgotten KFed’s foray into rap? If so, fear not, here’s his video for “Popozao!” which means “it’s 2005, and you have no clue that eventually I’ll be the solid one in this relationship.” (Actually, it’s a Portuguese slang term that means “big butt” – at least it’s butt in a PG world.)

I also know a Kevan, but that’s, potentially, an entirely different story. Are people inclined to click on unattractive names with intriguing spellings? The study didn’t find that out. However, makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin has inspired an unsurprisingly few parents – Kevyn looks and feels feminine by today’s standards, anyway.

Not every Kevin is automatically a negative association – Kevin Bacon, for example, is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and ensured his legacy long past his filmmaking career by introducing the world to the game “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” So far, his theory that he’s had such a storied career that he can be connected to every actor in Hollywood in six associations or less hasn’t been proven untrue. NBA star Kevin Garnett helped lead the Boston Celtics to the Championship in 2008. Actors Kevin Kline and Costner don’t necessarily hurt it (though Kevin Costner can’t create a hit these days to save his life), but one particularly negative association is Cousin Kevin – the total $#!^$&@ from The Who’s rock opera, Tommy. Kevin sticks pins in the hands of his deaf, blind, mute cousin Tommy, locks him outside in the rain, burns his arm with cigarettes, and pushes him down the stairs, all while gleefully prideful of his ‘school bully’ status.

But still, Kevin has it’s supporters – it’s well within the US Top 100 for boy’s names today, though the very height of its popularity was when it was Top 15 in the 1960s and ’70s (and even cracked the Top 1000 for girls in the ’60s). It’s been slowly falling ever since. In Canada and Australia, Kevin lives outside the Top 100 (just 5 Kevins were born in British Columbia in 2010). Meanwhile, the name is currently Top 5 on the tiny Dutch-colonized island of Aruba, off the northern coast of Venezuela, and also Top 5 in the small eastern European nation of Estonia. It’s Top 100 in Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Spain, and Top 50 in Chile and Sweden.

Maybe Kevin’s biggest downfall is that it’s too common, almost everywhere. Throughout the ’90s, Kevin was actually the number one name for boys in France. France! (Maybe this is why the Germans have a negative association; there’s such history between these two countries, and very few French names succeed in Germany.) German pop star Sarah Connor welcomed a daughter named Delphine Malou in 2011, and there was apparently little support from German media despite an instant affection from numerous folks in the English-speaking world – German media immediately noted that Connor’s boyfriend’s surname is Fischer, which means that the name, essentially, reads in English as “dolphin fisher.” If you’ve seen The Cove, a doc about dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan, you cringe like I did when I read about the German reaction, even though it didn’t dawn on me when I first heard the name.

It’s not like Kevin’s origin and meaning are to be shied away from – it’s of Irish Gaelic origin and means “handsome beloved,” despite the fact that modern association with the name is basically the opposite. Root name Caoimhín/Caoimhghín is believed to derive from coem (“kind, honest, and handsome”) + gein (“birth”), to honour a son born with these physical and emotional qualities. Though the assumption is there, the name is not connected to Kelvin or Calvin, but it is related to Cavan, which is actually gaining some ground these days. Feminine Caoimhe (pronounced, and sometimes seen as, Keva) is also viewed in a better light than Kevin.

What do you think about Kevin?

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§ 14 Responses to Is Kevin the World’s Most Unattractive Baby Name?

  • Emily says:

    I think Kevin is very dated. I’m always surprised to meet a Kevin younger than 15.

    Something that struck me about the ‘least clicked’ names was that they could also be perceived as the most American names. Wonder if that makes a difference to Europeans…

  • Everything I read from teachers about what they think of names just convinces me that a lot of jerks become teachers (obviously not ALL of them are jerks!). I think at least some of them encourage name-bullying at school.

    (EG: This answer from Annie D to a question I asked
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=AmJf4czinQ3_1egSZ3kVpLTsy6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20120106155711AALdGIv)

    Kevin has charted continually here since 2010, and I read that in Queensland (home state of former PM Kevin Rudd), there were twice as many babies named Kevin as Julia (the current PM) in 2011.

    I can’t say it’s my favourite name ever, but I can’t say I hate it either. I think that among the left in Australia, it could well be attracting a certain amount of nostalgic or sympathetic affection.

    • That’s a very interesting perspective on the name in Australia – a tribute to the days before the economy died and the conservative governments everywhere took control!

      As for teachers opinions of the students they teach…I suppose I have the same opinions regarding some colleagues, I just get away with it cuz they’re all grown-ups and usually awful people 😉 But I could go on for far too long regarding my opinion of how little teachers actually do to prevent bullying.

  • I also know from experience that the French hate the name Kevin, too. I had a French friend tell me once that he’s regarded as being a name given to those in lower socio-economic classes. He also seems to have an association with American TV shows, making him less desirable.

    I have an Uncle Kevin, who is the father of a Kelvin and grandfather of Keivan.

  • I wonder what age group they tested the dating profiles on? Because I can imagine that someone aged 25 could very well get an “Eww, that sounds like an old man”, whereas for someone in their 50s, Kevin could very well just sound like a normal guy name.

    And everything I read about online dating says that it’s older people who actually use online dating more seriously and have more success with it.

    • It’s very true. I can’t recall if the original article I read about this stated the age groups…harder to get a real sense of it, either, considering I’m not entirely well-versed on European name tastes, and as Lou mentioned, even in France the name is deemed low class.

  • […] A likely variant of Nevin, which means holy or sacred. The Name Station recently asked whether the name Kevin is one of the world’s most unattractive names. […]

  • Kevinw says:

    With 34 years of being a “Kevin”, I’ve faced my fair share of abuse. From the Home Alone screams, to the kid in Parenthood and most recently this TIlda swanson movie, it seems we Kevin’s can’t catch a break. Although, I love my name, I will not name my son Kevin as I couldn’t stand to hear his mother and teacher’s yelling “KEVVVVVINNNNN!!!!” every time he did something wrong. That being said, at least it’s a normal name; unlike all these new age baby names of the last 16 years! Sorry, “Aiden” your parents thought they were original, but your name is common as John or Brian were back in my day.

  • […] at The Name Station, there is an article quoting two studies which demonstrate that Kevin is the worst possible name to […]

  • @StanHaugan @jhaugan Actually, it can get worse…

  • My son is named Kevin (we’re American) and he was Voted Most likely to Succeed.”

  • mphawey says:

    Kevin, in Quebec for the french speaking population really dosent sound good, its a bit trailer trash.

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