Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Your name = your future?

I've mentioned my interest in the psychology of names. The Romans had a saying, nomen est omen, which means "names are destiny." In one famous American test, the exact same essays signed with with odd names (Elmer, Rupert, Edith, Sybyl) scored significantly lower than those signed with more regular names (Thomas, Brian, Susan, Barbara).

Experienced political campaign advisers know well how a candidates name can make the difference at the polling station, independent of platform or promised ideals. Most people who rather be ruled by a Richard than an Egbert. Of course, none of this is rigidly scientific. But anecdotal evidence is not the same as no evidence.

Have you ever noticed that someone in the news has a name that uncannily fits the event that made it he headlines to begin with? Yes, much of it is random luck, but I seem to notice a lot of random luck going around:

* The first man to be released from prison (from Death Row, in his case) because of exonerating DNA evidence is named Kirk Noble Bloodsworth.
* An Australian feminist theologian who writes about "God's feminine side" is named Dr. Carol Christ.
* The now-deceased head of the Catholic Church in the Phillipines was Cardinal Sin.
* Dr. David Precious of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a dentist specializing in cleft palate repair.
* The California spokesman for the Minutmen Project (the volunteeer group tracking and documenting the flood of illegal aliens entering the US from Mexico) is named Jim Chase.

Add your own to the list. Pay attention to the news more closely and you'll notice what I'm talking about.


Blogger Domenico said...

Best of the Web Today at has had an occasional series about this, soliciting names of people that are connected to some other aspect of their life, like the dentist named Dr. Tooth and so on.

So how is your name your destiny, Mr. Coffin?

1:05 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Well, coming from a long family line of undertakers...

Actually, I do recall having a rather big complex about my last name. I became pretty much obsessed with death as a pre-teen and teenager, and I think it was connected with being a Coffin (!)

I remember at 13 seeing my late grandfather's name "John G. Coffin" on a sign at the funeral parlour and thinking how weird it was. ("Are other people getting a secret chuckle out this name in a funeral home?") I realize a lot of young people go through this "death is everywhere" stage -- paradoxically at the very time they feel invincible and immortal -- but for me it went deeper. I'm sure I had some form of dysthemic depression when I was younger as a result.

My last name may have fuel-injected my resolute search for Life that led to my conversion.

Now my name just makes me laugh. I've heard every comment a hundred times. And I think may make me EVEN MORE memorable, if such a thing is possible.

1:49 PM

Blogger Karen said...

Aside from you... I know a real estate agent named Budge Offer. Not kidding. On his birth certificate. I used to have a neighbor in Arcadia who owned a gorgeous house with about 3 acres of back yard, and her name was Ione (pronounced like "I own") Paradise.

My name was Hitler's summer home, but I try not to think about that.

12:21 AM

Blogger Patrick said...

Wow. Who knew Adolph would retire to his beloved Karen for some lazy summer fishing days? lol.

10:56 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When my son was a baby he had to see a specialist who fixed inguinal hernias (that's in the area of the scrotum for all you non-medical people)--his name was (I'm not making this up) Dr. Weiner.

3:28 PM

Blogger Patrick said...

Anon. See what I'm saying? And thanks for teh anatomical allusion. My blog wasn't complete without at least one scrotum reference. (Actually, I'd have to check with my mom but I think I had the same procedure done, although it would have been a Dr. Starratt, not a Weiner. That's funny.

I guess "Starratt" (stare at) would be ironic if an OB-GYN. Is that inappropriate?

3:39 PM


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