Wednesday, 16 February 2005

Jobs reflecting names (nominative determinism, or aptonyms)






New Scientist magazine coined the terms "nominative determinism" or "aptonyms" to describe the phenomenon of people whose names reflect their jobs - or rather, who end up working in areas that reflect their names (hence the "determinism"!).

An example might be a plumber called Pipe. Real life instances abound.

A great one recently included in New Scientist's 12 February 2005 Feedback section: the noise and vibrations engineer for the Queensland Electricity Commission, Australia used to be someone called Ron Rumble.

Ones I've come across myself - there's a finance director called Stephen Purse. And an RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) warden called Partridge.

Added on 17 February 2005: In London there's a dentist called Blood-Smyth. And a surgeon named Hack! More of a homonym for an almost aptonym, but have you heard of the sexologist and author whose surname is Heiman?

Contributions from others to add to the list would be welcome, and will be duly credited - just email me (link in the footer) or post a comment!

Update: for more examples of nominative determinism and other funnies see



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18 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I was young enough to be dragged to church by my parents, the pastor there was named Reverend Lord.

Improbulus said...

Good lord, no!

thepsychicpilot said...

I know a Gynecologist whose name is Dr. Fred S. Grabiner. I kid you not.

Improbulus said...

That's hilarious, psychic pilot! Wouldn't go to him, I don't think...

john_hurt said...

There's a cosmetic surgeon in America called Dr. Alter.

Jim said...

One of the most obvious is music director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Simon Rattle.
Another one, and this might be the opposite of what you're talking about is Cardinal Jaime Sin of the philipines....Cardinal Sin.

Improbulus said...

Indeed, Jim, Though hopefuly the Berliner Philharmoniker (I like that, "moniker"!) make a better sound than a rattle...

I thought I'd seen a word coined for doing the opposite of your name, like your Cardinal Sin example (though I love the combo of "Cardinal" and "Sin" making up that standard phrase too). I saw it in New Scientist. But I really can't remember what it is! Though I do recall another term New Scientist suggested for "nominative determinism" is "axionyms" or "axionymy" (rather than the more common "aptonym" or "aptronym").

Anti-aptronym? Anti-aptonym?

Anonymous said...

The new weather chick in Chicago on Fox is Amy Freeze; her first day on the job it was like 15 below 0...

Improbulus said...

Thanks anon, great one, very apt indeed - both the name and the circumstances!

crowcity said...

There's the footballer Robbie Fowler ...

Gerard said...

David Dollar, the World Bank's country director for China

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2008-12-02-chinas-growth-to-hit-19year-low

Francis Davey said...

An excellent example must be Lord Judge (formerly Igor Judge) who is now Lord Chief Justice (you don't get much more judgey than that).

I once read a case report with a Sergeant Constable in it.

Improbulus said...

Excellent indeed, thanks crowcity, Gerard and Francis!

Anonymous said...

The groundskeeper of King's College Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia, When I attended, was a Mr Gardener.

Anonymous said...

I know a journalist in Spain caled Dave Bull, which i think is a double bubble...if ya think of it..

Anonymous said...

According to a NY Times article (Councilman Charged With Money Laundering, Feb 9, 2010), a NY councilman has retained a lawyer named Murray Richman. Definitely an appropriate name for a lawyer.

Kathleen said...

In high school I had a dentist named Dr Payne, and I once worked with a girl whose gynecologist was named Dr Rape. Currently there is a Veterinarian here in Tampa, FL name Dani McVety. You can google her. It's sing-songy like Dr McDreamy from Greys Anatomy.

Anonymous said...

Ih finchley north London there is a dentist named Dr Fang.
While in the SF Bay area there is a urologist named Dr Dong!