A Is For Anna: What My First Name Says About MeS

Welcome to The Name Game, in which we bring totally unscientific analysis to bear on popular American names. To kick off this new feature, I'm starting with a name about which both I and my boss are completely unbiased: Anna.

I'm not the first to bring sweeping generalizations to bear on a single name. We sort of gave Jessica the same treatment back in 2007. And Science tells us that people are more likely to marry and vote for those who share their initials — supposedly, we even prefer to work for companies whose names begin with the same letters as ours. This explains author Evelyn Waugh's marriage to a woman named Evelyn, but not why I work for Jezebel as opposed to, say, Allure (although my inability to deal with eye makeup might explain that). Also, people with uncommon names may be more likely to become criminals. This is probably a case of correlation rather than causation, but you still might want to think twice before you name your kid Grand Theft Auto.

So, to Anna. Anna Holmes says that before Anna Wintour, no one would have thought of Anna as a "bitchy" name, and I tend to agree. That said, our perceptions of names are often shaped by people we've known, or celebrities we think we know, and one bad Anna can spoil the basket. I feel this way about Jared, Chipper (admittedly uncommon), and guys with two first names.

But luckily, no one has soured me or Anna H. on our shared name. She thinks Annas are normally pretty "calm," which is something people say about me a lot, usually when they are unaware of my phobias surrounding spoiled food, looking directly at the microwave, and mail. I think the association with calmness comes from the sound of the name, which is kind of broad and flat, but not so short as to be abrupt, and from its popularity among Scandinavians. Swedes (like my dad's family, who are responsible for my name) are known for their stoicism and unwillingness to express emotion. So maybe Anna Wintour's cold stare isn't so uncharacteristic — although sources say "she smiles now and has been seen to laugh."

Anna H. also tells me Anna is a hard name to make fun of, which I wish was true in my case. I was a really skinny kid in high school, and the number of times I got called Anna-rexia have left me with a knee-jerk rage response any time I hear that word thrown around lightly (I don't love that it's frequently abbreviated 'ana' either). Some kids expanded the nickname to TyrAnnasaurus Rexia, which makes so little sense that I think it's kind of funny.

But aside from the Anna-rexia problem and the Wintour factor, I don't think the name has a lot of negative associations. When I Google myself, I often get the North Anna nuclear power plant, which I think is kind of cool (and interesting in the context of Anna Wintour's nickname, "Nuclear Wintour"). I don't know that many Annas — though I probably will some day, as the name has gotten a lot more popular since I was born — but the ones I've met have been pretty easy-going. Anna supposedly means "grace" or "graceful" — not that accurate in my case, because I can't dance and am generally kind of twitchy, but nice all the same. Anna H. thinks the name sounds a bit upper-class, but I think it's unpretentious. It's short and easy to say, without a lot of extra bells and whistles (although how I longed for an extra -belle as a kid, when I was convinced my name was short for Annabelle. Or Mermaid.). In general, I think my name has a laid-back quality that effectively masks the more obsessive and neurotic features of my personality. But you may disagree. Do you know any bitchy Annas? Are you one? And are there other names you'd like to see us "analyze" in the future?

Related: Anna (Name) [Wikipedia]