If the cap fits… people with names that match their jobs

Blacksmith: names that match their jobsHave you ever met someone whose surname was a perfect fit for the job they do? Or, indeed, an unfortunate pairing such as a goalkeeper called Dropsy*?

I’ve been pondering writing about this subject for a while, inspired by Mr Macro – a Maths teacher at my sons’ school – and Mr Cure, our orthodontist. But what finally tipped the balance was discovering a local hula-hoop instructor on Twitter whose surname is, in fact, Hooper!

So, I thought I’d explore how names can be appropriate for people – in particular how some people have names that match their jobs. It also follows on nicely from a previous post I wrote on euonyms.

This particular occurrence is known as an aptronym (a name that is aptly suited to its owner) or an aptonym (a proper name that aptly describes the occupation or character of the person, especially by coincidence).

Occupational origins of modern surnames

Many English surnames in use today can trace their roots back to the trade or profession belonging to our mediaeval ancestors. Before surnames became commonplace, age-old traditions meant that a person’s family occupation often determined the name by which they were known.

For example, the local blacksmith might be called John Le Smith (John the Smith) to distinguish him from all the other Johns in his village. Over the generations this evolved into the simpler version: John Smith.

In addition to the obvious Butchers and Bakers, here are a few more examples of names that derived from their jobs:

Appleby = someone who used to live by or tended an apple orchard

Carpenter = wood worker

Cooper = maker/repairer of wooden vessels such as barrels

Clark = scribe or secretary

Draper = merchant in cloth or dry goods

Fowler = bird catcher

Hooper = creator of hoops for barrels

Mason = stone worker

Miller = mill worker

Parker = gamekeeper employed in a medieval park

Potter = ceramic worker

Tailor/Taylor = clothier

Turner = maker of wooden, metal or bone objects on a lathe

Webb = weaver

Wood = woodcutter or forester

Wright = maker of machinery, mostly in wood

Celebs with names that match their jobs

As well as everyday folk, quite a few famous people in the field of sport, medicine, science, politics, entertainment and literature have apt surnames. Here are just a few examples:

Usain Bolt: names that match their jobsUsain Bolt, world record-holding sprinter

Russell Brain, eminent British neurologist

Thomas Crapper, manufacturer of Victorian toilets

Igor Judge, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

Bill Medley, one of the Righteous Brothers

Marion Moon, Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name

Larry Page, co-founder of Google

Larry Speakes, former Reagan spokesman

Tiger Woods, professional golfer

William Wordsworth, poet

Coincidence or destiny?

What do you think? Is it just a coincidence or are people attracted to certain careers because of – or despite – their name?

New Scientist journalist John Hoyland certainly believed it was more than coincidence after reading a scientific paper on incontinence by A.J. Splatt and D. Weedon. And this was right after he’d seen a book about the Arctic by… yup, you guessed it, Daniel Snowman.

He even coined the term nominative determinism to describe the phenomenon of people who seem drawn to their profession by virtue of their name.

The jury is still undecided on this one as there’s little scientific evidence to back up the theory.

Either way, it’s definitely thought provoking – and often more than a little amusing – when you meet or hear of someone whose name accurately reflects their profession or lifestyle.

Over to you

What are your favourite examples of names that match their jobs? These could either be famous people or ones you know in person. I’d love to hear them.

* French national goalkeeper 1978-1981

(blacksmith image via and cropped version of Usain Bolt via)

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20 comments on “If the cap fits… people with names that match their jobs
  1. ely says:

    Lonzo Ball – Basketball player
    Ken Miles – Hall of Famer Racer

  2. John says:

    My urologists name was Eric Seaman, I kid you not.

  3. Josh says:

    Storm Field – Meteorologist

    Scott Speed – NASCAR racer

    Nathima Atchoo – Doctor

    Mark De Man – Football Defender

    Les McBurney – Firefighter Lieutenant

  4. Josh says:

    Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Christian Hammer – boxers

    Richard Branson – Rich

    Bill Gates – Billionaire

  5. Julia Dunbar says:

    Unfortunately Amy Winehouse was aptly named, Bob Flowerdew BBC gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, gardener also

    • Thanks for your comment and additions. Quite a few gardeners and chefs seem to have apt surnames. I’d love to know how you stumbled across my blog post?

  6. Mike says:

    Amy Freeze also does weather

  7. Adam Hitchell says:

    Thanks for this! I’m working on an aptonymn category for my local pub trivia group and wanted to throw in Tim Duncan, Steve Jobs, former world #1 tennis player Margaret Court, Director of The Amazing Spider-man films Marc Webb, and, though it doesn’t relate to his profession, Congressman Anthony Weiner who resigned after a sexting scandal.

  8. Caroline Barry says:

    A gardener I used last year is called Jay Furze!

  9. I love that Midlands Today have a weather presenter called Sara Blizzard

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