Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.


What’s in a Name?

This might be not at all interesting unless you’re named Sarah. Quite probably not. But as I am… here we go.

According to the journal Speech Communication, some Finnish physiologists did a study in 2003 called “Conveyance of emotional connotations by a single word in English”.

The word, as you’re guessing, was “Sarah”.

They had people say it 10 ways, to express “naming”, “sad”, “pleading”, “admiring”, “content”, “commanding”, “astonished”, “scornful”, “angry”, and “frightened”. And they had people guess which ones were which.

They learned:

  1. It’s easiest to say my name in anger, fear or astonishment and get your point across. (I know there’s got to be a joke there.)
  2. When you’re trying to speak with neutrality, sadness, admiration, command, anger or fear, you need to focus on changing the  tone of your voice, whereas
  3. When you’re trying to convey astonishment, plea or scorn, you need to focus on varying the timing of your speech.
  4. If you’re trying to express admiration, positive surprise, scorn, plea, command, fear or neutrality, you sound the same in either English or Finnish.

So what I want to know is…

  1. Who cares?
  2. Why would Finnish physiologists care about English linguistics?
  3. And most importantly, why out of all of the words in the world did they pick my name for this test?

Science. It’s mysterious.


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