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Bad Initials Don't Spell Curse

Forget agonizing over baby name books. A new study shows even the most unfortunate set of initials may not come with a curse.

Despite the notion that a less than desirable monogram may bring bad luck, researchers say someone with initials that spell something negative, like DIE or ROT, are no more likely to wind up in an early grave than someone blessed with positive initials, like WOW or JOY.

The results contradict a 1999 study that showed men with positive initials lived 4.5 years longer than men with neutral initials, and men with negative initials died 2.8 years earlier.

Does Die Mean Rip?

In the study, researchers looked at California death records from 1905 to 2005 to see if there was a statistical relationship between initials and longevity.

Researchers came up with a list of "good" and "bad" initials by asking a group of college students to rank which initials they'd be most and least happy to have.

The top 10 positive initials were ACE, ICE, JOY, VIP, CEO, GEM, FLY, FOX, HIP, WIT, and WIN.

The top negative initials were KKK, DIE, ZIT, PIG, DUM, RAT, SOB, GAS, BAD, HOR, BUM, and SIN.

Researchers then compared the average age at death of about 4,200 men and 2,800 women with positive initials and 6,500 men and 4,500 women with negative initials.

Grouping by year of birth, the results showed men with negative initials lived slightly longer on average than men with positive initials. The reverse held true for females, with those with positive initials living slightly longer than those with negative ones.
However, in both cases, the observed difference in longevity was not large and the researchers considered this a chance finding in their study rather than a real observation.

Explaining The Differences

Researchers say the difference in findings between this study and the 1999 study may be explained by the fact that they grouped records by year of birth rather than year of death as the previous study did. They say initial choices vary over time.

For example, 50 years ago the initials ICE and FLY were not considered complimentary, but they may be today due to slang usages.

Researchers say there is "no persuasive biological theory of how longevity should be significantly affected by initials."

But baby-name book author Pamela Redmond Satran asks, why take the risk?

"Every conventional naming book gives the guideline, 'Don't forget to look at the initials,'" says Satran in a news release. "Even if the second study contradicts the first, and having bad initials is not going to shorten your life span, it could make what there is of your life less pleasant. And who wants to foist that on innocent children?"

Sources: Morrison, S. Psychosomatic Medicine, September 2005; vol 67. News release, Health Behavior News Service.

By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
© 2005, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved

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