Aptronyms

Helen Scales

Helen Scales

A new book about seahorses has appeared; the author is a marine biologist named Helen Scales.  In its review, The Economist grants that “Scales” is an apt name for a person interested in fish. 

 

 

Emily Hornett

Emily Hornett

Some new discoveries have come from examinations of old collections of butterflies; the lead researcher is a biologist named Emily Hornett.  In his note about these findings, Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science mentions that Hornett is a “great name for an entomologist.” 

 

A name that is especially suited to the profession of its owner is sometimes called an “aptronym.”  The Wikipedia page for aptronyms lists some famous cases of this coincidence, including such ironic examples as the sometime primate of the Philippines, Jaime, Cardinal Sin.  According to blogger and aptronym maven Nancy Friedman of the “Fritinancy” blog, the American Name Society had a panel about aptronyms at its annual session this January.  Friedman cites a New York Times blog that had a little contest a couple of years ago for best aptronym; the winners included Peru, Indiana’s Eikenberry funeral home.  Friedman also mentions that Slate has posted lists of aptronyms from time, including lawyer Soo Yoo, psychiatrist William Dement, and former White House press secretaries Larry Speakes, who spoke, and Tony Snow, who snowed ’em under.  Here is a list of 180 aptronyms, including such worthies as a financial-services scammer named Robin Banks.  Some aptronyms are really quite eloquent, as for example in the anti-Apartheid activism of actress Honor Blackman

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