Winner, Loser, and Marijuana Pepsi

We wrote in Freakonomics about two brothers named Winner and Loser.


Winner became a lifetime criminal; Loser a detective in the NYPD. The story of these two brothers matched the findings of my academic research with Roland Fryer, which found no impact of a child’s name on her life.

Now, from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, we have the story of three sisters: Kimberly, Robin, and Marijuana Pepsi Jackson. Just like Loser before her, Marijuana Pepsi has made something of her life, earning a master’s degree in education.


Is it that the name has no impact, or that some people may try harder in life when labeled with such a "negative" name? Therefore there may be an inverse correlation between a negative name and a positive life outcome. Maybe these names have a boy-named-Sue effect (cue the Johnny Cash music).


Didn't Shakespeare cover this?


Absurd names make for great sentences!


On the contrary, I think the story actually shows that her name impacted who she became.

"She has no doubt that her difficult childhood and the way she tenaciously rose above her name have helped her to reach kids with problems."


Do her friends call her Mary Jane Pepsi?


So does she like pot more or less than her siblings? That could be an effect of the name, right..?


Wait - you're claiming that the name of a person has NO impact whatsoever on their life? Then why even bother naming the child?

We should be more careful with outrageous claims here.


Well, that's a relief for the kid named "Adolf Hitler" whose parents couldn't get a bakery to frost his birthday cake. However, I want to know what Moxie Crimefighter Jillette has to say about it.



Please actually read the book Freakonomics before commenting on the blog. The claim is not "outrageous," it's backed up by solid evidence.

Put simply, the socioeconomic conditions a person is born into determines their lot in life. Names tend to reflect those socioeconomic conditions.

Joe H

This makes me feel a little better about the "names" my pregnant wife has been adding to the possibility list. Maybe I'll add Marijuana Pepsi to the list and see if she notices.

Bob W.

One piece of data that contradicts the idea that name has no effect on people's lives comes from an UC San Diego study on people's initials. Looking at a huge database of death certificates, they found that people named with "bad" sets of initials (i.e. DIE, BAD, PIG, etc) were more likely to die sooner than people with "good" initials (WIN, ACE, etc).

Pretty cool study, actually.


Tim -

Actually, I've read and own the book. Thanks for the concern though.

My point is this: saying that a name has NO impact is ridiculous. There's obvious social impact that a person's name has. Maybe he didn't find ECONOMIC impact; that doesn't mean that therefore a name has NO impact.

Also, socioeconomic conditions do not determine a person's lot in life; if so, then there's no reason for people to actually try things out of their own will. There are plenty of instances where people have lifted themselves from one socioeconomic condition to another.

Just something for you to think about.


Have you ever read Top Dog/Under Dog with the two characters who are brothers named Lincoln and Booth? very good play...


And this makes me wonder...

What ever happened to Moon Unit Zappa?

Othar Hugh Manati

Let me Google that for you, Paul.

Moon Zappa


I went to school at Beloit College and MP was a legend there, even though she was never a student but lived in the town. Whenever I'm involved in a conversation about strange names (or when reading Freakonomics) I always bring up Marijuana Pepsi Jackson (although legend had it was Marijuana Pepsicola Jackson). It's great to see that she's successful. BTW, Topdog/Underdog is not a book; it's a play.


From the news article:
"It was the one time in her life that she went by MP Sawyer professionally because the name Marijuana was freaking out the customers and causing her for-sale signs to be stolen as souvenirs."

It seems she is astitute to know what to do and when to do it...


What does that do to the other kids in school?
I wanna know the flower child parent who decided to name their kid that, then ask them why. then ask them what drugs they were on.

Here is the future of America.

Science Minded

Dear Tim and Caliphilosopher;

What's the impact of a person's name, the day they were born etc. etc. Depends alot on framework. Technically speaking, I was born on the Jewish New Year-- Every year, I celebrate two birthday's cause I can never forget my real religious one. As far as the secular one, I still was born on the "Day of Atonement" -- so my birthdays have always been sweet and sour or bittersweet-- And then my real secular one is the first or second day of fall- I love the fall, the change of seasons-- so there's alot going on around my birthday-- As for my name- have blogged about it before-- so I will speak of my students- have been talking for years with them about what's in their first names- the stories behind each one of their individual names. Take the time to ask and when they ask their parents about it (if they haven't already- there is always a story-- a connection to the past, a hope or dream for their kids in the future. And my guess (hyopthesis) is that their parents in some way taught them about why they chose that name i.e., what was important to them--even if only indirectly-- so as to "impact" Your stats will never pick this up because they ignore/ overlook the whole person, their individual history/family history/ particular cultural background--- And be the by- this is not a critique of the use of statistics-- just a criticism of how they are used sometimes--



I am confused i was looking up pot then this came up