Madoff Made Off with my Money

When I guest blogged last June, I posted about tautonymically named people (e.g. Billy Dee Williams, Ford Madox Ford, Humbert Humbert.) It made me want to research other people with oddly themed names but I didn't really have a good idea for a post until I played tennis with my friend whose real name is Ace Allgood. Ace serves many aces and is a good tennis player.

pecksniff.gifThinking about that led to me to the concept of nominative determinism, at least one guy's idea that a person's name plays a causal part role in the development of one's job or other important attributes of life. Similar to this are aptronyms, "names that match its owner's occupation or character, often in a humorous or ironic way."

A few examples illustrate the idea: Vikings field goal kicker Ryan Longwell, Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, Astronaut Sally Ride, prostitute Mi Sook You, and poet William Wordsworth.

The works of Charles Dickens are filled with great aptro-named characters: Pecksniff, M'Choakumchild, Bounderby, etc


  1. The most eminent British neurologist of the twentieth century was Walter Russell Brain, first Baron Brain. Wikipedia tells us further that for many years he was the editor of the journal Brain

  2. And just to throw a monkey wrench in the ointment, I once knew a man whose hopeful parents had named him “President Smith.”

    He was my 9th grade gym teacher.

  3. There is an emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin named Max Carbon. Back in the early days of the cold war, he was responsible for the graphite piles at Hanford.

  4. I remember in the 60’s when on the network news, Roger Mudd always seemed to be covering the floods and Lem Tucker was reporting on the space program.

  5. As a young man in Richmond, VA my regular dentist was one Dr. Root. With the, standard for my age, complete inability to recognize that I wasn’t the first to engage in round after round of “root” jokes I would attempt to regale him with my humor at every visit. It’s a wonder he didn’t start removing teeth in appreciation.

    On a side note, a quick google search reveals he is not the only Dr. Root, DDS in VA, though he appears to still be in practice. Could this be supportive of the premise?

  6. Many Germans may remember the soccer player Bernd Hölzenbein, i.e. Holz = wood, Bein = leg, so his surname can be interpreted as wooden leg, quite a laugh.

  7. My dentist is the unfortunately named ‘Dr. Payne’.

    Another vein of interesting names are names that form phrases, such as my college freshman computer professor: Justin Case, and a friend named Edward Zachary Lee (Ed-Zach-Lee).

  8. Scott Speed is a race car driver, used to be in F1, but he is in NASCAR now or somewhere else.

    I don’t think he would have been enjoying the same success if his name was Scott Slough.

  9. When I was at junior (elementary) school my teacher’s husband was a chiropodist (podiatrist) called Mr Sillitoe.

    (How patronising/condescending is it of me to give alternative UK/US nomenclature?)

  10. James Wood, in How Fiction Works, has a lengthy footnote on page 115 talking about allegorical names in fiction and examples from reality. In addition to the writer Wordsworth, he mentions Kierkegaard (the theologian whose name means churchyard), Cardinal Sin (Archbishop of Manila), and the philosopher John Wisdom.

    Actually, Cardinal Sin’s name is ironic, while the others are aptonyms. That Wikipedia page mentions some great ones:

    Derek Jeter (French for throw), the Yankees shortstop.
    Neel Kashkari, Obama’s Interim Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability.
    Henry Head, a neurologist.
    Megan Fox and Samantha Fox, models.
    Usain Bolt, famous sprinter.
    Samantha Bond, who played Miss Moneypenny in four of the James Bond films.
    Margaret Court, tennis player.
    Eugenius H Outerbridge, first chairman of NYC’s Port Authority (which manages the bridges that connect Manhattan with the rest of the world).

  11. Years ago Science News reported on a study that did find a correlation, that people did tend to go into professions related to their name.

    1. > Years ago Science News reported on a study that did find a correlation, that people did tend to go into professions related to their name.

      Oh oh. I’m in trouble.
      My name is Cary Midden. (look it up)

  12. I know a woman whose gynecologist is named Dr. Bush.

    In the ironic vein, in Mexico the General Director of Banrural (bank in charge of rural loans), his last name is “Terroba” which in spanish means “steals from you”. This man was accused of using public funds for personal use.

    You can’t make this up!

  13. A friend of mine just completed medical school and chose a specialty. He’s now a urologist, by the name of Dr. Dicks.

  14. There is a chiropractor here in Dallas named Dr. Bonebreak. Having only heard his name on the radio (he used to have a regular show on weekends), I just Googled him to check spelling and discovered that there are at least 2 other chiropractors with the same last name in other parts of the country.

  15. I’d say John Legend, if he wasn’t so crashingly dull.

    My favorite is Eric Plunk, who was a pitcher in the 80s and 90s. “Plunk” is baseball slang for hitting someone with a pitch.

  16. Many years ago my mother worked in the maternity ward of a large hospital with another nurse named Alice Stork.

    She also worked with a Fay Bible. Fay’s husband was a student of divinity at the local seminary.

  17. Loreena Bobbitt

    Bobbing is synonymous with docking, as in the shortening of the tail or ears of an animal.

    And that is exactly what she did to her husband. Except it wasn’t his tail or ears.

    And re: Captcha, who are the bongoes for?

  18. My former boss had a dentist, Dr. Doctor.

    I had an orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Bone.

    I knew a banker named Dick Payne. (Why not go with Rich or Rick or stay with Richard? I always wondered)

  19. I’m a little surprised that no-one has linked to the “nominative determinacy” song that appeared in the b3ta newsletter a while ago..

  20. I don’t know anything about sports, so I have no idea if golfer Curtis Strange or Baseball player Darryl Strawberry lived up to their names.

  21. I, too, know a dentist by the name of Dr. Payne. As well, a lawyer named Garth Makepeace.
    I had thought about setting up my kids with a yard maintenance business, our last name is Mowat.

  22. A friend reports she was on jury duty with a witness who was a prostitute named Luz Morales.

    My mother’s maiden name was Sandy Rock and we used to know a guy named Rocky Beach. If they had married…

  23. I went to boot camp with a young man of the last name Stain. The company commander, of course, put him in charge of the laundry.

    Oh, did I mention this was the US Navy? He was Seaman Stain for many years. (Though I expect he got promoted quickly, the opposite of the “who promoted Major Major?” effect)

  24. I had outpatient surgery a few years ago. The anesthesiologist was named Dr Strange. I was quite pleased with his ministrations.

  25. There was also a doctor in San Diego named Harry Maas, which always called up yucky images to me, when I saw the plaque on his door.

  26. Dan Pike, (our fisheries biologist), had Doctor Dick (our surgeon) perform his vasectomy. Iqaluit(Inuktitut, many fishes)in the Early 90’s

  27. guilty as charged.
    My name is Sofia, and I’m studying Philosophy — I want to be a professor in the field.
    To compound things a little, my middle name is Andrea, making my full name mean “Human Wisdom” in Greek.

  28. My Austin Tx accountant is named Penny Dear.

    My nephew, Ben Funke (pronounced “funky) has one blue and one brown eye.

    It’s a shame NASCAR driver, Dick Trickle, never drove the car sponsored by Viagra

  29. The author of a recent report for the British Government recommending that home educated families should be licensed and their children should be interviewed by social workers without their parents present: Graham Badman.

    “Don’t talk to the Badman, honey.”

  30. Professor of Computer science at Wright State University: Dr. Doom

    Local dentist (why is it always physicians and dentists?): Dr. Fang

  31. This is a common practice in china, where most names are words that mean stuff, like flower or success or money and so on. So you name your kid for what you want it to be. Its interesting how naming in china has changed since the communist days, when the names were gathered to large extent from nature (Mao for example, cant remember if it was bear or fur), but now they are more related to personal success and individual stuff. hmmm interesting ey

  32. In my corner of Wisconsin we have a chocolatier named Gail Ambrosius and a craft brewer named Tom Porter, and everything they make is DELICIOUS. Now that’s the kind of nominative determinism I can get behind!

  33. I have been collecting these names for years from Wall Street types:

    • Jeff DeGraph
    He is a chartist ! What are the odds of that?

    • Art Cashin
    Works for UBS, frequently seen on the floor of the NYSE on CNBC, where he “cashes in”.

    • James Moneypenny
    is a currency trader in London

    • Charles Ponzi
    What are the odds that a ponzi scheme operator nearly a century ago was named Ponzi? (joke)

    • Andrew Upward (Fidelity) and Ben Grizzle are my new favorites — guess which one is bullish and which one bearish!

    • Jack Grubman is who first got me thinking about this — He was a “man” who “grubbed” money

    There is a full run here in comments

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