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AWADmail Issue 134September 4, 2004
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Roger Burton West (rogerATfiredrake.org)
You write: "... Alexander, meaning defender, from Greek alexein (to defend)."
Well, loosely. But Al-ex-ander can also, and I think more closely, be drawn as "he who repels men" (in a martial sense; throwing them off as he wades through the fight); which would make Alexandra "she who repels men" (in a marital sense?).
From: Al Hartman (ohioalhartmanATaol.com)
It is popular to accent the garth by diverting a small stream to run through its midst. These are affectionately referred to as "garth brooks".
From: John Graham (johnATjgrescon.fsbusiness.co.uk)
In the UK, "garth" has a number of related meanings. It refers quite generally to any enclosed yard and is occasionally used as an alternative for "avenue or street" (as in Lullington Garth in North West London) if the thoroughfare is U-shaped (both ends joining the same main road). It is also used to describe a weir on a river for trapping fish.
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Going by the response to this week's theme it appears aptronyms are not that unusual. For some reason, doctors are particularly prone to this phenomenon (known as nominative determinism). Here are a few selections:
My long-ago orthodontist in South Bend, Indiana was named Dr. Tuthaker.
His nurse was vigilant about pronouncing both vowels as "uh" but we knew
it was really "oo" and "ay"!
I knew there had to be a name for it. There is no way to describe the drive
to become what your name means. My maiden name is Leeper, and I'm one of
seven children. In school, several of us competed in high jump or long
jump. Most of us had small measure of talent, but a nephew, Nathan Leeper,
went on to compete in the Sydney Olympics, one of two high jumpers for the
My favorite aptronym is a local Russian violin maker named Strinkovsky.
The Amigone family runs a funeral home in Buffalo, NY.
The name of a local urologist is Richard (Dick) Tapper!
My very competent chiropractor, noted for her subtle sense of touch,
is Dr. Karen Feeley.
My herbal medicine lecturer is Louise Plant! Her daughter is called Acacia,
which is a type of Australian tree.
In the Los Angeles area, there is an independent journalist that I know,
who is quite well respected, and his name is Trent Kamerman. He is ...
yes, you guessed it - a cameraman!
My name is Forester Dean, and yes I am an arborist and landscape designer.
Most people hear "Forester Green" and I point out that the possibility is
unlikely. Down the street, South Burlington Vermont, is a Congregational
church who's minister is Reverend Merry Crowder!
I once owned belt made by A.Buckle and Son Pty Ltd.
We have a politician here in Northern California named (John?) Doolittle.
I still can't believe anyone with that name would have the nerve to go into
I had a neurosurgeon repair my wrist many years ago - his name was Dr.
Cure. My favorite, however, is an optometrist for whom I worked. His name
was Dr. Steven I. Ball. I'm not kidding.
I once came across a man who had an excessive affinity for the bottle.
His last name? Drinkwine.
In my small hometown of Goldendale, Washington, there were many with
monikers you surely would classify as aptronyms. Two which come to mind
were Carl Crooks, for years our only insurance broker (ironically the most
decent and honest individual many of us ever knew), and Dr. Bonebrake, our
town's chiropractor. I also knew a Judge Lawless, who was elected to the
Superior Court in eastern Washington.
Richard Chopp--he goes by Dick--is a urologist specializing in vasectomy
in Austin, Texas.
Years ago my children's dentist belonged to a small practice that included
a Dr. Grinder.
My favorite aptronym is a pediatric urologist who has written extensively
on male circumcision. His name is Dr. Thomas Wiswell.
Here's another aptronym: A limnologist named Prof. Lake at Monash
University in Australia (limnology being the science of freshwater
ecosystems, i.e., lakes and rivers).
When I was growing up near Philadelphia, I once babysat for a family
named Buch. The mother was a librarian and her name was Rita Buch.
Here in Coventry UK there was once a city centre optician (optometrist)
named Seymour. As for non-aptronyms: in my student days in the Home Counties,
I knew of a professional firm (of estate agents, I think) named Secrett,
Secrett and Sly. I often wondered how their business fared!
When I used to write obituaries for a daily paper in Kingston, NY, there
was an undertaker in neighboring Ellenville named Donald H. Bury.
Then there's the serendipitously named novelist, Francine Prose.
And this may be apocryphal, but I've been hearing for years about an
insurance agent in the Boston area named Justin Case.
My favorite aptronym is Waverly Person, who is the Director of the
National Earthquake Center in Denver.
In Rochester, NY there is surgeon who performs vasectomies: Dr. Stopp.
There is a retired physician at our church named Fred Doctor. There is also
a pastor in town named Pastor Doctor who does healing of a different sort,
As an undergraduate student of Near Eastern archaeology at Wilfrid
Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, my most influential teacher was
Dr. Lawrence Toombs. He had dug with Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho in the
1950s, and because of his name was assigned by her to excavate the
Middle Bronze Age tombs.
I recently had a colonoscopy performed by a Dr. Hinds.
In the small city where I attended college some years ago, the sign in
the office window of two physicians read, "Doctors Bills and Bills".
Not exactly an aptronym, but it somehow seemed appropriate.
In the suburbs of Detroit in the 1960's, there was a podiatrist whose name
was printed in bold letters over his door: P.F. Smelsey, Foot Doctor.
Every time my family drove past, we children would giggle.
I have to tell you that my name is also a common word. My mother attached
an additional "r" at the end to make it more distinct or different.
Tenderr Lee is my given name.
A couple of my acquaintances were named Draxler, Vesna and Bruno; Vesna a
Croat and Bruno a Hungarian. Their elder daughter is named Alexa. This was
long before dyslexia in its myriad complexities became a common concern
among educators. Not quite alexia; Alexa is fluent in several languages.
Here is a website of funny medical aptronyms, collected by medical
librarians: The Doctor's
Names List. Not only is there
a nice long list of names, but as good librarians, the site includes a
short bibliography of research into nominative determinism.
From: Michael Wiesenberg (queueingATpacbell.net)
Puritans hoped recipients of names would take on their characteristics, hence names like Charity and Chastity.
Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)