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Is Your Name to Blame for All Your Problems?

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As Juliet bemoans the grudge her family has against Romeo's based on their names, she says, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Apparently, there's a lot more in a name than Juliet thought—especially if your name is Mandy or Kevin. A study finds that people with these names—and other "bad" names—are unpopular on dating sites and tend to have poorer self esteem, are lonelier, are less intelligent, and even smoke more.

Researchers from Duke University, Humboldt University, and Max Planck Research School created several experiments using the European dating website, eDarling. In one, the researchers sent an email to 12,000 members. The messages featured matches that exactly mirrored the criteria of each dater and included a person's name, age, and location. Because all the other details were identical to what each dater was looking for, their rejections were based on names only. The researchers discovered that people prefer being alone than being with someone with an unbecoming name.

In a second trial, the researchers sent emails without photos to 47,000 German daters. Names like Alexander and Charlotte carried more valence (read: seemed sexier), and these profiles received 102 percent more views than people with less sexy names. Then the researchers compared names to teacher assessments of students and found that those with unattractive names acted more quarrelsome and performed poorly in school, causing the researchers to propose named-based life histories, which include neglect, discrimination, prejudice, and ostracism.

"Supporting this argument, neglect mediated the relation between negative names and lower self-esteem, more frequent smoking, and less education. These results are consistent with the name-based interpersonal neglect hypothesis: Negative names evoke negative interpersonal reactions, which in turn influence people's life outcomes for the worse," the authors wrote in the paper published in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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