In 1985, Belgian psychologist Jozef Nuttin published a landmark study in which he revealed that people have a general preference for the letters in their own names over the other letters in the alphabet. The idea is that the sight of those letters provides a temporary self-esteem boost that affects affect. Nuttin described this phenomenon as the Name-Letter Effect. “‘Mere belongingness to self’ is tested as a sufficient condition for the enhancement of the attractiveness of visual letter stimuli,” he wrote in his abstract.
Since then, in the psychology world, there has been much ado about Nuttin. The 1985 results been retested countless times and they have held across at least five different alphabets. A 2004 follow-up from researcher John Jones used marital records to suggest that the name-letter effect even extends to one’s choice of betrothed. An Eric is more likely to fall for an Erica. A Stephen and a Stephanie may be star-crossed.
Here at Name of the Year, we have our own hypothesis we’d like to test: Are potential partners more likely to tie the knot if their potential hyphenate surname is something incredible? We have evidence to support our theory. Once, long ago, a Sporn married a Starr. Did those fated lovers get a little self-esteem boost from knowing that their Spornstarr offspring could one day win an online competition that determines the best name of the year?
Which brings us to Chrotchtangle’s eighth seed and Final Four entrant Chastity Gooch-Fant. She was Chastity Gooch until she met George Fant, which happened when she was a freshman in high school and was making it rain in a basketball championship game. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Fant knew she was special from the time he first laid eyes on her. “I saw her and I wanted to meet her,” Fant said. “That’s how it happened. She had 20-something points in that game. She was showing her skills on the court. There was something about her that I liked. That like turned into love.”
Gooch’s Franklin Simpson Lady Wildcats came up one point short in that game, but she and her future hubby saw their love blossom. They attended Western Kentucky University together and both played basketball. She was the Conference USA Player of the Year in 2015, and he was big and strong enough to get noticed by the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, who figured that he might have the size and strength to play offensive line. That hunch turned into a contract, and the couple now lives in Seattle with two children.
Gooch and Fant don’t share any letters, but there’s no denying how well those names fit together. They are similarly short and sharp and monosyllabic, and the marriage between them forms a terrific trochee. Adding the first name Chastity only makes it scan more smoothly. If the name-letter effect can be extended to sound and style, then Chastity and George are Exhibits A and B.
How far can Chastity Gooch-Fant’s most perfect union take her? She’s already reached the Final Four, but now she faces her greatest challenge yet: the formidable Dragonwagon one-seed Jizyah Shorts. That matchup, as well as the battle between underdogs Storm Duck and Pope Thrower, will be decided now.
Sam Gutelle, in addition to names, also writes often about food and digital culture. He currently lives in Oxford, Ohio, where he attends Miami University and serves on the staff of OxMag, a grad student-run lit journal.