Thursday, January 01, 2009

In A Name - 
Nominative Determinism

From the London Times:

10 cases where moniker maketh man

The New Scientist gave it the name nominative determinism - the idea that there is a link between people's names and their occupation.

In their book Yes!, Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini cite the classic piece of research that supports the idea that nominative determism really exists. A study of the rolls of the American Dental Association shows that more people called Dennis become dentists than you would expect if the choice of profession were purely random.

And now we have the exquisitely named Bernard Madoff, making off with his client's cash.

Here are my top 10 examples of nominative determinism.

1. Theodore Hee. Mr T. Hee was responsible for most of the early comic storylines for Walt Disney films.

2. Cardinal Sin. The classic example, I think. Jamie Sin was an Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines. Wikipedia helpfully notes: "His name should not be confused with "cardinal sin", which is synonymous for the seven deadly sins".

3. Judge Judge. In July of this year Sir Igor Judge was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

4. Amy Freeze. Fox News Chicago's Chief Meteorologist could hardly have chosen a different profession. Save, perhaps, setting pay for Government employees.

5. Patty Turner. The inevitable name of the wife of McDonald's CEO Frank Turner.

6. Governor Blagojevich. The man responsible for introducing Americans to the British slang term "blag" which as the dictionary puts it means "To rob, steal [origin unknown]

7. Dr Fred Grabiner. This is what the internet is for. A forum on appropriate names yields this brilliant moniker for a gynaecologist.

8. J. W. Splatt and D. Weedon. The New Scientist campaign was spurred on by the discovery of these two authors of an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology (vol 49, pp 173-176, 1977).

9. Usain Bolt. Surely his surname influenced the career of the world's fastest man? The same cannot be said of Marina Stepanova. This is the ideal name for an elite hurdler. But she earned her first titles under her maiden name of Marina Makeyeva, so her name can't have influenced her choice of career. Perhaps, though, it influenced her choice of husband.

10. Paige Worthy. Nominative determism has also fascinated the Freaknonomics blog ever since they discovered this fact checker for Good magazine.

Here are some more:

1) Bill Gates - The overarching goal of Bill Gates' life has been to find a way to bill you every time you pass through a gate on the internet.

2) Ralph Nader - he sees himself as being the Nadir, or the person who is the oppositional character to those who are in power.

3) Jorg Haider - Racist European politician.

4) Johnny Unitas - One of the greatest team-leading quarterbacks in NFL history.

5) Karl Marx - He was a German Philosopher (a country in which the basic unit of money is referred to as the Deutsche mark) who was "all about the money," in that he was the father of Economic Determinism.

6) Neel Kashkari - The guy who's in charge of the American economic bailout. Need I say more. 

I'll think of some more and add them to the list.