Though most people are unfamiliar with the word “aptronym” — and spell-checking programs tend to flag it as an error — we’ve all encountered the phenomenon. An aptronym is a name that all too well suits its bearer’s profession, hobby or other distinguishing characteristic. Years ago, for instance, I had a camp nurse named Sandy Sheets, my uncle had a dentist named Lou Smoler and my mom knew an ophthalmologist named Dr. I. Ball. Our local weatherman was Storm Field, and a nearby veterinarian was named Dr. Barker.
Over the past 12 months, Seven Days staffers have compiled a list of nearly two dozen new aptronyms we chanced on in the course of our reporting. A few, like University of Vermont geographer Austin Remy Troy, aren’t immediately obvious. (All three of his names are geographic places.) Then there are the anti-aptronyms, or names that seem to contradict their bearers’ calling — such as Don Black, the former Ku Klux Klansman who founded the white supremacist website Stormfront.
Got a few good aptronyms of your own? Send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Trevor and Russell Ashe, Barre firefighters
- Margaret Provost, St. Michael’s College administrator
- Alan Quackenbush, Vermont wetlands ecologist
- John T. Coffin, St. Johnsbury funeral director
- Vern Grubinger, UVM fruit and plant expert
- Dr. Walter Russell Brain, British neurologist and author of the standard neurological text Brain’s Diseases of the Nervous System
- Alicia Keys, pianist
- Birgitte Sloth, obesity and exercise researcher
- Bill Dolphin, cetacean researcher
- Christian Smith, sociologist of religion
- Deb Hitter, walking-stick maker
- Susun Weed, herbalist
- Nancy Nipples, owner of a Seattle-area store that sells high-end dairy products
- Kook Jung, psychiatrist
- Sue and Gary Butts, owners of “Butts A’Running Bare Race Management,” which organizes clothing-optional runs
- John Pepper, CEO and co-founder of the Boloco burrito chain
- Joseph Boardman, Amtrak CEO
- Kathleen Newland, national refugee advocate
And two anti-aptronyms:
- Dr. James Clapp, Medical Center Hospital of Vermont OB/GYN
- Anna Drinkwine, Victory Center Church pastor