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What's in a name?

Programme that offers a female perspective on the world. How do our names affect our lives?

What do our first names really say about us? More than you might think, according to Dr Jane Pilcher, Associate Professor at the University of Leicester. She claims that our names often reveal important clues about our age, social class and ethnicity that might affect the way that we are treated by other people. She joins Jane, along with name expert and the founder of the British Baby Names website, Eleanor Nickerson to discuss what's in a name.

How has this classic British name become synonymous with being middle of the road? The actor Jane Asher turned 71 earlier this month and was born in the year that Jane entered the UK top 50. Jane Brody celebrated her 30th birthday last week and was born the year after Jane stopped being a UK top 100 name.

Woman's Hour listener Victoria Smillie wanted to change her surname following her divorce, but realised in doing so that she had never been happy with her given name, Lesley, either. So she changed both. They are joined by another of our listeners, Tracy, who truly hates her name but can't quite bring herself to lose it. By the age of three, Esther Robertson had had three different first names and surnames. Esther joins Jane to discuss how her changing name has affected her life.

The author Charlotte Mendelson keeps lists of names and can deliberate for hours about what to call the characters in her novels. She joins us along with the journalist and editor Alex Clark to discuss the best and worst names in books.

Presenter: Jane Garvey
Producer: Laura Northedge.

Available now

45 minutes

Chapters

  • What's in a name?

    Duration: 10:46

  • Being Jane

    Duration: 06:49

  • Changing or not changing your name

    Duration: 10:06

  • Esther Robertson

    Duration: 05:10

  • Names in literature

    Duration: 08:51

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Jane Garvey
Producer Laura Northedge
Interviewed Guest Jane Pilcher
Interviewed Guest Eleanor Nickerson
Interviewed Guest Jane Asher
Interviewed Guest Jane Brodie
Interviewed Guest Tracy Alexander
Interviewed Guest Victoria Smillie
Interviewed Guest Esther Robertson
Interviewed Guest Charlotte Mendelson
Interviewed Guest Alex Clark

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