Celebrity Names Blog

Aptonyms: When The Name Says It All

Aptonyms: When The Name Says It All
Tennis player Margaret Court via Wikipedia

When Samantha Stosur clinched the women's singles title at the U.S. Open in New York City on Sunday, a little tidbit of trivia was also reported: Sam was the first Australian woman to win since Margaret Court claimed her fifth victory in 1973.

Yes, Margaret Court the tennis champion.

The name Margaret Court is a great example of an aptonym, which is a name that is, well, aptly suited to its owner in that it describes his or her profession or personality. A recent article in the New York Times explained that newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams originally thought up the word “aptronym” by rearranging the first two letters of “patronym” (a family name derived from the name paternal side). Later, linguist Frank Nuessel refined it to aptonym.

There are many famous folks beyond the now-retired tennis dynamo whose given name also describes their jobs. Sticking with sports, there’s Tiger Woods, who makes a pretty penny swinging golf clubs, including irons and... woods. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s name, in French, means “to throw,” while his boss — general manager Brian Cashman — oversees the team’s very high payroll. Other standouts include Josh Outman, who was a pitcher for the Oakland Athletics; Australian surfer Layne Beachley; and Jamaican sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

There are also some funny examples in the weather world. Meteorologists Storm Field, Amy Freeze, Dallas Raines and Sara Blizzard all sound like they were born for their jobs. In music, there’s The Righteous Brothers’ songwriter Bill Medley, Slaughter bass player Dana Strum and Brenda Song, who in addition to starring in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody was part of the musical group Disney Channel Circle of Stars.

There’s even a Catholic cardinal in Manila named — wait for it — Cardinal Sin.

Some scandals have given new meaning to surnames. For example, when Bernie Madoff was busted for running the largest Ponzi scheme in history, his last name was fodder for headlines and late-night talk show jokes because he "made off" with so much money. The same can be said for New York Congressman Anthony Weiner who was, um, exposed for sending sexually suggestive photos of his man bits to an array of women… other than his wife Huma Abedin.

Now, we want to know: Have you come across other aptly named people in your life? Share some names of people you've come across below.

--S.B.

Comments

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September 12, 2011 5:31 PM
By Kat (not verified)

I think Hope Solo was born for her role in the American soccer team. As a goalie you have to have hope and be all on your own!

September 12, 2011 9:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There's a well-known pediatrician in NYC named Barney Softness.

September 12, 2011 9:21 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Also, and I know it's cheating because the name is fictional -- Mr. Sir from Holes.

September 12, 2011 10:48 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Chord Overstreet on Glee seems to be aptly named!

September 13, 2011 12:21 AM
By Sarah (not verified)

The pastoral associate at my parish has the last name Priest. We have a lot of fun with it, especially around the actual priests!

September 13, 2011 12:34 AM
By Sarah (not verified)

Though these ones are fictional, this post made me think of some the names on the tv show "Scrubs." While many of them are just plain fun, like Keith Dudemeister, some of them are pretty good aptonyms! For instance, Sunny Day, the overly cheery intern, Coleman Slawski,also known as "Colonel Doctor" because of his resemblance to Colonel Sanders, and Seymore Beardface, who has a prominent beard on his face. It must have been fun naming characters on that show!

September 13, 2011 11:53 AM
By Devin (not verified)

Ironically, Frank Beard is the only member of ZZ Top without their trademark beard :)

September 13, 2011 12:05 PM
By Birgitte (not verified)

There is a doctor in town called Dr. Butcher...
And in my home town in Norway there is a dentist called Holtan (Hollow tooth) and there used to be a Fire Chief called Sviland (Burn land).

September 13, 2011 12:06 PM
By Stephanie (not verified)

I tend to think of cooking show people, oddly- Alton Brown (isn't browning something you do to meat when you cook it?) springs immediately to mind. Rachel Ray is always so chipper, like a ray of sunshine. Guy Fieri really is just one of the guys. Maybe it is a chef thing?

September 13, 2011 12:19 PM
By Paula (not verified)

Chord Overstreet is the son of singer/songwriter Paul Overstreet, whose other children are named Nash (named after the city of Nashville), Harmony (another good musical name!), and Summer.

September 13, 2011 12:30 PM
By Allison Margaret (not verified)

My orthodontist was Dr. Huerter (pronounced hurter) - I certainly thought that was apt each time he tightened my braces!

September 13, 2011 12:33 PM
By Allison Margaret (not verified)

I posted my above comment before I remembered that my elementary school nurse was Ms. Healy! She got married and changed her last name when I was a student, and I always thought the name change was too bad.

September 13, 2011 12:34 PM
By Nicki (not verified)

There was a Dr. Blood where I was delivering my daughter. SO GLAD he wasn't my physician.

September 13, 2011 12:41 PM
By almk42 (not verified)

You forgot WCNC weatherman Larry Sprinkle.

September 13, 2011 12:54 PM
By Kae (not verified)

Here in Austin, there is a urologist (who performs vasectomies) by the name of Dr. Dick Chopp. Seems too perfect to be true, but apparently there are many such examples in the medical field (perhaps there's something to the theory of "nominative determinism"?)

Tried to link an article in Canadian Medicine News about this, but it triggered the spam filter. You'll have to google it.

September 13, 2011 3:19 PM
By Riana (not verified)

Billie Piper a British singer and actress.

September 13, 2011 3:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

We have a dentist here name, Dr. Payne.

September 13, 2011 4:53 PM
By Anne (not verified)

My mom worked at a hospital where they had a urologist named Dr. Richard Dick. Oh, and he went by Dick. Dr. Dick Dick, the urologist. Yep.

(I have a friend who has actually been seen by Dr. Dick, and says he's a great doctor!)

September 13, 2011 6:33 PM
By Linnaeus (nli) (not verified)

Creighton University's medical school has a chair dedicated to one of the school's most prominent surgeons: Dr. Claude Organ.

September 13, 2011 8:10 PM
By Julie (not verified)

There's a anesthesiologist in Atlanta named Dr. Au (pronounced OW.) Earlier this year she wrote a book called "This Won't Hurt a Bit."

September 14, 2011 1:48 AM
By Juulie with two u's (not verified)

In Portland, Oregon, our mayor was discovered to have had a love affair with a man named Beau Breedlove. The name gave the whole thing a very Dickensian feel!

There's a book called "The Book of Names" by Paul Dickson which has a whole chapter of aptronyms. You should get a hold of it!

September 14, 2011 2:53 AM
By Mary (not verified)

My current favorite is Arsene Wenger, the manager of football (soccer) team Arsenal FC in London.

September 14, 2011 12:27 PM
By Pamela (not verified)

Emily Wines is a Master Sommelier

September 14, 2011 6:37 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Dr. Fridge, the gastroenterologist

September 14, 2011 6:45 PM
By Anonymous Me (not verified)

pick up a Harry Potter book and you'll see a million names that suit. Voldemort, Rubeus Hagrid, Remus Lupin, Fenrir Greyback... There's a million.

Personally I know A Ms. Learn who's a teacher. And a Mr. Sir, who was my maths teacher in 7th grade.

September 16, 2011 10:57 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

A few days ago I saw a woman on TV who was a stylist and her last name was Styles.

September 16, 2011 12:43 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There was a 5th grade teacher at my school named Mrs. Hurt, who apparently was very mean and liked dragging kids out of class by the ear to yell at them haha.

September 18, 2011 4:12 PM
By jereza (not verified)

The former mayor of Austin is named Will Wynn. And who can forget Lorena Bobbitt

August 16, 2015 8:38 PM
By Karen Burnham (not verified)

I work in a public library along with my friend, Joy Fine. And yes, we work on the Circulation Desk and collect fines.

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