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Nominative determinism.
...destined for your job by name

 11:34 am on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

As a kid I was an enthusiastic member of the RSPB's Young Ornithologists Club (YOC). The local YOC branch was run by a Mrs Bird, who was later awarded an MBE or similar for her dedication.

Ever since those days I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that people can have names which reflect their job or profession.

Through New Scientist [newscientist.com], which features the subject briefly this week and provides some fine examples, I learn for the first time that the phenomenon is called ‘Nominative Determinism’.

Two examples that I’ve come across in the last couple of months are:

Dr Mellon – food scientist
Prof. A. Bass - author of a scientific report on fish sounds (noted also by this week’s by New Scientist).

Any more?




 12:08 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Brett Tabke..( think about it :)


 2:37 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

My city has a Dr. Safety First.


 7:48 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

One of my favorite Washington Post columnists calls these "aptonyms."

Here are two:

Carolyn Hax, advice columnist.
Dr. Richard Chopp, urologist (does vasectomies in Austin, Texas).


 8:55 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Is that why there are quite a few dentists with the name of Dr. Payne / Paine?



 9:07 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

Perhaps this explains the name of the pleasant web developer who lives next door to me ... Mr. John Viagra#*$!enlargementmortageloanmesothelioma Smith. Up until now I thought it was a sort of odd name... ;)


 9:09 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've heard of a professor that teaches a wine class, named Dr. Vine.


 9:10 pm on Oct 28, 2005 (gmt 0)



 3:32 am on Oct 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I sold some computer software to a Doctor Filth in the late 70's.

From the name, he must have been a proctologist :)


 4:49 am on Oct 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

The best known undertakers (Funeral Parlour) in my home town was "R. Body & Son".


 11:34 am on Oct 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Oct. 28, 2005 - Famed Houston scientist Richard Smalley dies

...shared a Nobel Prize for the discovery of buckyballs, helped pioneer the field of nanotechnology...


 5:10 pm on Oct 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Around here I've seen business signs for:

- a veterinarian called Dr. Wolf
- Dentists named Dr. DelTufo (Del Tooth-oh?)and Dr. LIPkin

and my favorite - a proctologist by the name of Dr. HellBraun ("light brown" in German).


 11:50 pm on Oct 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

My dog's old vet: Dr. Barkin

My cat's current vet: Dr. Mauser

Both at the same animal hospital.


 12:51 am on Oct 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

My lawyer's last name is Leech.

In spite of my tendancy to rant against lawyers, Leech is a nice man, we actually go for coffee now and then (and he doesn't even add it to his billable hours.)

His eldest son is a defective writer who survives by means of government art grants.


 12:14 am on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

What about the opposite, as in the instance of Dr. Head, the podiatrist? Personally, I see nominative determinism as little more than chance occurrence, or a plan by someone with a bit of humor and the drive to choose a career that reflects their name.

And since we're talking about surnames, shouldn't the entire family line be examined? How many Mellons are food scientists? Or farmers? Or fruits? ;)

And how does nominative determinism fit in with the current job market? How many Chandlers are candle makers? Smiths blacksmiths or silversmiths? Coopers barrel makers? Wheelers wheelwrights? How does necessity fit in? How many Farmers had to farm in order to eat?

Just things I wonder about when I have too much time on my hands...


 1:20 am on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

How many Chandlers are candle makers? Smiths blacksmiths or silversmiths? Coopers barrel makers? Wheelers wheelwrights? How does necessity fit in? How many Farmers had to farm in order to eat?

I see that as more legit, for the reason that someone in the lineage held that job, and was probably passed down in the family at one time.

Guess I'm stating the obvious.

The other stuff, I just find amusing, not determinitive.


 8:15 am on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

I know a chiropractor named Dr. Goldfinger


 8:36 am on Nov 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

My English teacher was James Bonte


 2:24 pm on Nov 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

The orthopaedic surgeon in our local hospital is called Doctor Cartlidge.

We used to have a Doctor Donald Duck listed in the telphone directory here in the West of Scotland but I don't know if he was a quack?

On the subject of genuine funny names we seem to get a lot of these in Scotland. How about ...

Ewan Kerr
Isla White
Matt Black
Shona Dick
Kim Owen
Iona Gunn

There was also a poor guy in our area called Archibald Archibald. Parents ... why do they do it?


 10:30 am on Nov 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

From this week's New Scientist [newscientist.com]...

Quadruple nominative determinism

...a case of quadruple nominative determinism. We would actually put it somewhere between triple and quadruple - but that is still pretty impressive. Marsh is referring to the book The Imperial Animal by Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox.

Lastly on this topic, Alex Gough has discovered that the chair of anaesthesiology and pain management at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, is William J. Tranquilli.




 4:05 pm on Nov 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

My University City has a plaque dedicated to a high flying Doctor whose surname was "Death".


 7:58 pm on Nov 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

My father is a Church of England minister, and claims he knew a cathedral-based Cannon who's name was Ball.
I wonder if there's a Catholic priest named Christmas anywhere? (father...)

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