Words can be carnivals themselves

Published 8:26 am Wednesday, May 19, 2021

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We’ve spent the last couple of weeks strolling around outside events of one sort or the other.

Maybe we devote a little time to looking around us at the words we use and realize that they can be a carnival themselves.

I bet you’ve never run across the term “aptronym”.   Truth be told—after all, why shouldn’t it—I only recently stumbled across it myself. 

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The dictionary defines it as a name that fits the person it’s attached to in some unique or interesting way. 

For example, there is a New York television meteorologist named Amy Freeze.  There is—or was—a lawyer named Soo Yoo.

Like that.

So I began looking around for more. There had to be more. And the more I looked, the more I found. And many of them are an absolute hoot.

Did you know that the man who developed the flushing toilet in Victorian times was named Thomas Crapper? 

Margaret Court was an Australian tennis champion. 

The MacMillan dictionary reminds us that Tiger Woods (a “wood” is a type of golf club), and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt (who runs like a bolt of lightning) are both aptronyns.

Remember Bernie Madoff? He is the investment fellow who (clearing throat) “made off” with a huge fortune.

If you ever watched Saturday Night Live back when it was funny (in a land long ago and far away), you will remember Martin Short—who is only 5’6” tall.

William Headline was—you guessed it—a CNN news man.

How about one (and an ironic one at that, given the profession’s current reputation) from politics: Harry Truman (true man).

Chris Moneymaker is a champion American poker player. 

Willie Thrower was an NFL quarterback.

The next time you saunter into Costco, know that it was founded by a man appropriately named Sol Price.

Oklahoma evidently has a Dr. Odor. Fortunately, he isn’t a podiatrist.

William Wordsworth? Ah, the poet.

If you want your daughter child to be an astronaut, why not name her Sally Ride.

The United Kingdom seems to have a dentist named Dr. Fang, and another named Dr. Molaro. 

Things are not always true to form. A scientist once spent actual time tracking down people with the names “Doctor” and “Lawyer”. Statistically, people named “Doctor” were more likely to be lawyers, and people named “Lawyer” were more likely to be doctors. Go figure.

But not always. Lawyer Tillman was an Auburn football player who became neither a doctor nor a lawyer.  He became a tight end. But his daughter, Jamie, attended Auburn and became a pharmacist, which is a medical person.

How about another meteorologist (these are fun):  Larry Sprinkle was a long-time weatherman at WCNC in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Dr. Rick Chopp was an Austin urologist who specialized in vasectomies.

Prince Fielder was a first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers.

For a while, Israel’s top female tennis player was Anna Smashnova.

Anna and Frank Webb founded the British Tarantua Society.

While I was working on this column, I was sitting at Johnny’s New York Style Pizza in West Point, a regular Thursday evening thing for me. The Braves were playing—badly—and a commercial came on.  A fellow named Roger Teeter was hawking his invention, an inversion table which was…wait on it…a teeter totter.

Guess who produced the bands Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi?  Bob Rock.

One of the most famous singers and dancers on Broadway was Tommy Tune.

And when we make up names, making them out of aptronyms can be fun.  Remember the old cartoon, “The Dudley Do-Right Show”, where our honest but dim-witted Canadian Mountie  engaged in regular battle with his nemesis Snidely Whiplash, usually over the lovely Nell Fenwick? 

I once went to a dentist named Dr. Pain. I never went back.

These things are everywhere.  Let me know which ones you’ve seen.