D Is For Danielle (Or Dani, Who's Apparently Kinda Judgey)S

Danielle has always seemed like a non-confrontational name to me, but some of its variants (namely Dani or Danny) might help you get ahead in the legal profession.

The Danielles I've known have usually been pretty nice, and while I don't think the name is as saintly as Beth, to me it has a certain wholesome quality. Danielle plays soccer or maybe field hockey. She wears her hair in a ponytail — sometimes she chews gum, but she never snaps it. She might at some point have starred in a public service announcement about exercise or eating fruits and vegetables. She's not as popular as Courtney, but she has plenty of friends, and she does well in school. I'm just realizing that all of my examples of typical Danielle behavior come from high school, which is maybe where all my name stereotypes — and my assumptions about all things social — were formed. And to give you an idea of how flimsy those stereotypes are, the Danielles in one Jezebel editor's life have been "snotty and haughty and rude" or "pushy/emotional/desperate/annoying."

Dani, though, is a whole nother kettle of fish. She's sassy and edgy, and she may have a purple streak in her hair. She shares her name with one of the worst songs of the past decade, but somehow she still manages to be cool. She might well be a mean girl, but she's the kind you can't totally hate, because sometimes she turns around and does something sweet, like giving you really nice present on your birthday or defending you from someone meaner than she is. If she spells her name with an i, her hipness might wear well, but her name is still mainstream enough that she could become a soccer mom, or a crappy character on Law & Order. If she goes by "Danny," though, she might be the kind of iconoclast for whom you just can't predict the future — or, equally possible, the kind of annoying girl who intentionally adopts a boys' name because she thinks it's cute and sexy.

Or, she might grow up to be a judge. According to a new study conducted in South Carolina, female lawyers with "masculine names" are more likely to become judges. One possible explanation is that both potential employers and voters — in the case of judicial elections — are fooled into thinking masculine-named candidates are actually men, and so conscious or unconscious gender bias works in their favor (this would seem to give Danny an advantage over Dani, who still has an advantage over Danielle). It's also possible that even when people know Danny, Esq. is a girl, they trust her more — study authors Bentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin write, "a woman with a male moniker might just feel more like 'one of the boys.'" Or, they say, "it could just be that the parents who successfully nurture a girl's ability are the same people who believe that bestowing a child with a masculine name would be advantageous in her future career path."

In his coverage of the judge study, True/Slant's Ryan Sager mentions another study that shows that people's names have some effect on what careers they choose (ie. people named Dennis are more likely to be dentists). Since Danielle happens to mean "God is my judge," maybe parents with judicial aspirations for their daughters really should name them Danielle, but shorten it to Dani or Danny for maximum sexist-fooling potential. Then again, naming your kids according to your hopes for their future careers is kind of creepy. Given the state of the Internet in the early '80s, it wouldn't really have been possible — but I'm still pretty glad my parents didn't name me Blog.

Danielle [Wikipedia]
Judicial Gender Testing [True/Slant]