Saturday, 20 August 2011

Nominative determinism

Nominative de-WHAT-ism? Nominative determinism

We've all had a dentist called Mr Paine, haven't we? Or come across Mr Bun the baker (ok, maybe not that last one.)

I used to work in a bank where there was a business account for Messrs Costall and Deer - I never found out what they did, but they sound pricey.

There's an article at The Behaviour Effect about whether people are influenced by their names.

A well-documented example of the phenomena is a legendary article in the British Journal of Urology by Splatt and Weedon.

I was on the lookout for books to illustrate what I'm talking about here, and came across: ‘A journey around the world' a cycling memoir, by David Sore.

We have a borrower who is always after Star Wars books (there's lots of them, you know!). His name is Luke Walker. I asked him if his middle name was 'Sky'. It isn't. It ought to be. I wonder if it is just co-incidence or he was influenced towards Star Wars because his name was so similar to the hero.

I've recall reading this post from the Inky Fool about cardinals and it reminded me of the aptly named Cardinal Sin of Manila - who I already mentioned in this post - which only one person read at the time. 8-( *sad face*

Anyway, it got me wondering if it would be possible to rise above your station through the clever choice of name? A sort of elective nominative determinism - which I'll be writing more about at some point, once I've collected enough silly names.

For example, who could resist promoting a Sergeant de Sturbance to Major, Private Punishment to Corporal or an Able Seaman T. Arch to Admiral?

What Masonic Lodge wouldn't be tempted to make Mr Flash their Grand Master?

And then there's the other side of the coin - have any of us been compelled to take up certain jobs or course of action because our names decreed it? Would someone called Mr East feel compelled to live in East Anglia? Would someone called Mr Naylor feel drawn to the hammer as weapon of choice?

More examples can be found at Ampers& but first, here's a bit of nominative determinism fun below from the 'I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue team' with late arrivals to the Vicar's Ball.

You can watch it while I contemplate whether to B. Silly with any of my characters names.


  1. Oddly, the seven towns in which I have lived have all been in the east of the country. Well, Dunstable is near the middle, but just on the east side of the line.

    I think the Masons would be mnore likely to promote Mr Bates.

  2. Good to hear that old ISIHAC programme again. It reminded me of when I was headteacher of a C of E Primary School, where vistors had to sign in, and we often had vicars and bishops calling in. Our peripatetic music teacher was doing so one day and asked if it was a good day to visit as we obviously had the cathedral's top brass in. The person before him in the book had simply signed ‘Canon Hygiene’. We didn’t like to tell him that it was a company name (spelled with two n’s) who specialised in washroom sanitary equipment and who had come to empty the specialist bins in the ladies’loo.

  3. See what happens when you title your post with big words? Everyone is frightened to comment. Including, it seems, the author herself.

  4. There used to be a Dr Cream in a hospital where I worked - he was a skin doctor - and a Mr Dick. And guess what his speciality was ....

  5. Dave - I hab a friend called Bister Bateban, I like to call Baster... Fred West was West country wasn't he? - you just rebided be. (Sorry for delayed response. I hab a cold)

    Little Nell - I lub that story!!

    Fran - I wonder if he's related to an old school chub of a friend of bine (alledgedly) - Ophelia Dickie?

  6. I used to know of a firm of accountants called Swindells and Gentry.

    Enjoyed the ISIHAC clip. Nice to hear Willy Rushton's voice again....