Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Madison, Wisc.: City of Aptronyms

Since reading about aptronyms, names that fit their holders, at Away with Words and on the Freakonomics blog, we've all been having the occasional smile as we notice new ones.

Like any town this size, we have lots of aptronyms in the local scene. There is a Dr. Bonebrake — said to be a bone guy (though I haven't confirmed that), to give one example.

The City of Madison is really strong in this regard. Our waste and recycling person is George Dreckman, who's kind of a local personality. The missus (not her real name) got her new bike license yesterday, with a letter, as she pointed out, signed by Bicycle Registration Coordinator John Rider. Our Common Council includes alders named Clear, Judge and Solomon. No wonder our town is relatively well run. I don't even need to mention the pronunciation maven Miss Pronouncer (a French name? OK, I confess, not her real name either).

Where will it go from here? My hopes are on a leader for the Republican Assembly minority leader named Dr. Eeevil. (OK, my hopes are on a Republican minority in the Assembly generally, but that's off topic ... .)


lynneguist said...

The Feedback column in New Scientist collected these for years, under the name of 'nominative determinism'. They pointed out in a 1998 column that a psychological study on the phenomenon has been published:

"Put the Blame on Name" by Lawrence Casler, Psychological Reports (vol 63, p 476) 1975.

From that New Scientist column: "He goes on to list over a hundred examples of the genre, including such gems as "Effects of tactile stimulation" by a person called Finger, "Sequelae of orgasm in male guinea pigs" by a Mr or Mrs Grunt, "Animal behaviour" by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox, "Responses to authoritarian discipline" by Stern and Cope, "Intra-uterine contraceptive devices" by Gamble, "Juvenile delinquency" by Lively and Reckless, ..."

(Why is there an 'r' in aptronym?)

Mr. Verb said...

God, that's brilliant! (And, Lynneguist, I trust that works in the British AND the American sense of the term.)

I've wondered about that 'r', actually and have only vague and unsatifying ideas, but haven't had time to think much about it ... a plausible answer may already be out there.


Ollock said...

I found a great aptronym in the wild today. In the Dominion Post (subscription site) front page, a story about a sexual assault case. The prosecutor?

Gail Voorhees

The Ridger, FCD said...

I'll bet it's a poor analogy with retronym, patronym(ic), etc - whoever coined "aptronym" didn't realize the -r- he was seeing came from the first element, analyzing it as "X + ronym" instead of "X + o + nym".

Heck, "acronym" is probably contributing, too.

The Ridger, FCD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Ridger, FCD said...

(previous comment removed for horrible "braino")

I was trying to think of other -nym words and couldn't come up with anything but pseudonym. There is homonym and heteronym and synonym, but I bet most people don't think of them as "name" words.

Also, I was wondering, can you even have an "anonym" or would that be a self-contradiction?

Anonymous said...

There are two doctors named Bonebrake in Madison. One, Dr. Frank Bonebrake, is my wonderful pulmonologist. The other one is Dr. Robert Bonebrake, a rheumatologist. Sorry to spoil your fun with this surname.

Mr. Verb said...

Curses. I knew that was too good to be true. Oh well.

I'm still thinking about the Ridger's questions/comments.

lynneguist said...

Ridger, there are TONS of 'nym words. Some are seriously used in lingusitics (hyponym, hyperonym, meronym, metonym, antonym, holonym...), and a lot have been made up by word enthusiasts. There's a long list at Fun with Words. (And then there are people who study those 'nyms for a living. That would be me...)

Ran across a good apt(r)onym (again) today... The guy who helps me in the Research Office on campus is named Paul Grant.

Hey, and I'm named Lynneguist!

Wishydig said...

When I lived in Bismarck ND I frequently drove by a chiropractors office with the practitioner's name proudly displayed on a large sign: Jeff Askew

binoculars for night vision said...
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