February 1, 2008
Sounding Out on Presidential Candidate Names
When it comes to product naming, we all know that what a product is called can influence the perception of the product.
I have a theory that the same thing applies to presidential candidates and it may help differentiate the candidates in this years election that William J. Kole suggests is a global issue.
For example, I think Americans like presidents with long surnames.
With the exception of Lincoln, all of the greatest U.S. Presidents have surnames that are three syllables in length. Kennedy, Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Roosevelt all share this pleasant polysyllabic cadence.
Historically, 64% of our presidential races have gone to the candidate with the longer name.
Now, while this is really good news for two of the current five remaining candidates –Huck-a-bee and O-bam-a, it has its downside too.
We, as a nation, have never elected a president whose surname ends in a voiced vowel –and it is precisely this final voiced phoneme that gives both candidates their lucky third syllable.
Also notable, is our electoral preference for candidates whose surnames end in ‘n.’
It’s no coincidence that 1/3 of all US presidents share this final fricative phoneme sound. So score one for Hillary Clinton and John McCain who are currently considered their respective party's frontrunners.
Finally, we should also give consideration to first names. After all, these are a greater reflection on the candidate’s immediate family than their surname counterparts.
Not surprisingly, tried and true names like James, William, George and John have met with repeat presidential success –more good news for John McCain.
But on the other hand, many a candidate has squeaked past the electoral college with an exotic given name (Rutherford, Ulysses, Grover and Millard) so for Mitt and Barack, the picture isn’t entirely bleak even after finishing behind Clinton and McCain in Florida's primary earlier this week.
From a phonetic perspective (and in my book, phonetics trumps semantics every time) John McCain has the edge. But so did Bill (William) Rich-ard-son - perhaps we should have sent him this blog before he dropped out.
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