Another Appropriate Name

« previous post | next post »

In 1958 a Virginia couple were rousted from their bed in the middle of the night by a county sheriff, arrested, tried, and convicted of the crime of miscegenation, for which they were sentenced to a year in jail. With the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, they appealed the conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, which on June 12, 1967 ruled unanimously that the Virginia law against inter-racial marriage violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution and overturned the convictions.

Mildred Loving passed away on May 2 at the age of 68.


  1. lynneguist said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

    New Scientist magazine collected these for a while in the Feedback column. Their term for it was 'nominative determinism'.

    My general practitioner is Dr Cramp, Paul Grant works in my university's research funding office and I just found out that Ms Diaper works in the baby room at my daughter's day care. I never knew 'diaper' could be a surname till then…

  2. Bill Poser said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

    Yes, I thought that we'd had some posts on names appropriate to professions here on Language Log, which I intended to point to, but when I searched I couldn't find them. Maybe I'm just not awake enough.

    My personal favorites are two that I learned from my neurologist father, the neurologists Sir Henry Head and Lord Brain.

  3. Constance said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

    Her daughter's name is Peggy Fortune.

  4. Jeremy Hawker said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

    Dr Brilliant was leader of the WHO's successful smallpox-eradication program in India and is now head of

  5. Tamara said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

    I have a cousin named Dr. David Hackam. He's a surgeon.

  6. Martyn Cornell said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:06 pm

    There are more than 860 people with the surname Diaper in the UK, according to this website but only 19 with the more British-sounding name Nappy. (And four with the surname Guist, Lynne – so it DOES exist …)

  7. Mark Liberman said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

    There's the legendary law firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe. And in the same spirit, the credits here.

    In the real world, I once lived near a dentist named Dr. Fang. (Pronounced, alas, to rhyme with "long".)

  8. John Cowan said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 7:19 pm

    And I dealt with a group of veteranarians named Dr. Fish, Dr. Saari (pronounced "Sorry") and Dr. Goldfinger.

    But someone better close comments fast, or this will be Language Log's first centithread.

  9. Rob Perez said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

    In the DC area there are plumbing companies named Flood, Flow and Peed.

  10. auderey said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

    i knew someone who claimed their small-town dentist was a 4th-generation Toothtaker.

  11. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    May 6, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

    My family's favorite putative law firm is Fake, Swindle and Muddle. Fake was based on the real firm Kenneth Fake Insurance and Swindle was a name I saw on a law office or other professional office (there are people with Swindle surnames in the capital district of New York), but I don't recall where Muddle came from.

  12. Oby Beeby said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 2:27 am

    My favourite has to be the Austin urologist Dr Dick Chopp.

  13. Mike said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 9:22 am

    And just to join in, there's a funeral director in Twickenham, London, called Wake & Paine.

  14. Ralph Hickok said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 10:55 am

    Gene Weingarten's "Tuesday with Moron" chats over at the Washington Post often contain such names, either found by Weingarten or submitted by his chatters. He calls them "aptonyms."

  15. Ralph Hickok said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 11:08 am

    Just recalled that, in his chat yesterday, Gene Weingarten had a link to a story about the official arborist for the City of Boston. His name is Leif Fixen.

  16. D Williams said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 9:52 am

    Those with institutional access might be interested in this year's Bateson Memorial lecture by Alastair Fowler on "Proper Naming: Personal Names in Literature".

    But why do we find aptonyms amusing? Is this related to the effect of curiously apt etymologies, i.e. an unexpected link between sign and signified which for a moment we fancy may be uncontingent? Or is it just the general fascination with thinks unlikely? My contribution, picked among many candidates, is Robert Lawless, an attorney in Eastham, MA, whose business sign is priceless.

  17. Kate said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    This isn't quite the same, but my toilet was fixed by a plumbing firm called "Immer Hübsch und Freundlich" – Always Pretty and Friendly.

    When I commented on the name, I was informed that I was speaking with Herr Freundlich… and he had founded the company with his friends Herr Immer and Herr Hübsch!

  18. Mark said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    A friend of mine back in high school had a dentist named Dr. Sueme.

  19. David Marjanović said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

    And nobody has mentioned Am Rong yet, the official spokesman of the Khmer Rouge?

    Matt Gobush, the spokesman for the Gore campaign of 2000, pales in comparison.

  20. codeman38 said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

    Nobody's mentioned South African astronaut Mark Shuttleworth yet? An appropriate name if I've ever seen one.

  21. codeman38 said,

    May 8, 2008 @ 9:24 pm

    Oh, and I spotted another example in my own hometown paper a while ago: one restaurant reviewer for The Macon Telegraph is named Eaton Wright. Clearly Eaton Wright is eatin' right.

  22. Psikolojikmaniaq said,

    August 15, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

    Gene Weingarten's "Tuesday with Moron" chats over at the Washington Post often contain such names, either found by Weingarten or submitted by his chatters. He calls them "aptonyms."

    Woow really wonderfull. Thank you

RSS feed for comments on this post