My friend Hattie recently introduced me to aptonym (also known as aptronym). This is, delightfully, when a person’s name is well-suited to its owner, whether that be in character or profession. Just this week, I read about a surgeon called Professor Kneebone. Some of you may be familiar with Igor Judge, former lord chief justice. There are many famous examples: the sprinter, Usain Bolt, for instance. William Wordsworth, who, lest we forget, as well as his poetry, also petitioned to reform British copyright law. Regular pub quiz question: who invented the toilet? Thomas Crapper. (He didn’t invent it, just improved it. But he did invent the manhole cover.)

Hattie should really be a milliner. I should probably be an expert on diseases. Aptonym is not a new phenomenon, nor recently discovered. In his 1960 book Synchronicity, Jung wrote that there is “sometimes quite grotesque coincidence between a man’s name and his peculiarities”. Nominative determinism is the theory that aptonyms are not merely happy coincidences (or grotesque ones), but that our names can inspire our choices in life and careers, possibly because of egotism. In the past, it was the opposite – the profession came before the name: Taylor, Smith, Baker. Spiderman.

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Vijay Nanda

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