Does Your Name Affect Your Career?

Last Updated Jun 22, 2011 8:08 PM EDT

Does Your Name Affect Your CareerDoes your name play a role in determining what career you choose or how successful you are within your chosen profession? Seems like a pretty ridiculous concept, I know, but it's actually not so far-fetched.

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story on the relation between names and careers and, believe it or not, there are bona fide researchers that study this stuff.

Two published studies, one from the State University of N.Y. at Buffalo and the other out of Wayne State University in Detroit, found that people are indeed more likely to choose professions that are somehow indicated by their names.

Not surprisingly, there are dissenting views in academia. Frank Nuessel, professor of languages and linguistics at the University of Louisville, who edits a journal on names and coined the term "aptonym" - when your name reflects your profession - says he doesn't really believe in "nominal determinism."

And a University of Pennsylvania professor has two reports coming out in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that dispute previous findings on name research.

Nevertheless, there's certainly a ton of anecdotal evidence that names and career choices are related and additional evidence that people don't necessarily choose doctors, lawyers, and who knows what else, completely at random from a list.

Here's a list that'll have you wondering how these real-life people could have chosen any other job (from the WSJ story and the credible ones from the comment section):
  • Personal injury attorney Patricia Boguslawski of Teaneck, NJ. Bogus-law-ski. Seriously.
  • Austin, Texas-based urologist Rick Chopp. You do know what urologists do, right? If his hands shake, I'd be out the door in a heartbeat.
  • Speaking of heartbeats, there's a cardiologist in NY named Dr. Douglas Hart. He says that folks do pick him from a list of doctors, based on his name.
  • Then there's sex therapist Jacqueline Rose Hott of Great Neck, NY. I once knew a very bright and optimistic psychologist named Laureen Light. No kidding.
  • In West Virginia there's a family of realtors with the surname Greathouse.
  • And yes, there really is a lawyer named Sue Yoo. She says she never even thought about becoming an attorney but people kept suggesting it and, well, maybe that did it.
  • Former Austin mayor, Will Wynn. He did.
  • One of the commentors was actually an investment professional named Rich Widows.
  • Dentists Dr. Toothman and Dr. Brush.
  • Obgyns named Dr. Clapp and Dr. Harry Beaver.
  • Mr. Nail, a carpenter.
  • An orthodontist named Dr. Chu.
  • A dental surgeon named Dr. Butcher.
  • A surgeon who did vasectomies: Dr. Harold Stop.
  • Barber: Kat Mohair.
  • The founder of the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography was Charles Fish.
I used to know a father-daughter doctor team named James and Julie Quakenbush. Yup, they weren't quacks, either.

My name actually means tobacco in a number of European languages. A friend sent me an email this past weekend, "I thought of you this week. I am in Stockholm this week for work and the corner stores are all called Tobak." I guess that makes me a counterexample, although I did smoke when I was younger.

Anyway, got any fun aptonyms for us?

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