A name is the blueprint of the thing we call character. You ask, “What’s in a name?” I answer, “Just about everything you do.” – Morris Mandel
It’s a curious thing when you call a locksmith and learn that his name is Mr. Key, you see a podiatrist whose name is Dr. Foote, and you hire an arborist, Mr. Forrest, to trim your trees. Who could possibly be better suited to these specific tasks than those named – and seemingly destined – to perform them?
Early names were purposely chosen to match one’s occupation or role in the community: Schoemaker was a cobbler, Tailor mended your clothes, and Butcher cut your meat. Nominative determinism, as it’s called, is just the opposite – selecting a profession that matches your name (first or last) once it’s already yours. Is your name Booker? Become a librarian! Do you belong to the Burns family? Firefighting might be the job for you! Or perhaps you’re known as Rose, and you’ve always dreamed of being a florist. If daisies and daffodils hold no appeal, don’t force your predestination, for a rose – or florist — by any other name smells just as sweet.
In his seminal paper called “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,” the famous psychologist Carl Jung pondered this: Are these quirky correlations “the whimsicalities of chance” or “meaningful coincidences?” Jung’s paper raised more questions than it answered, and we still can’t say with certainty that a strong trend exists. It’s true that anecdotal evidence points to a correlation of this sort, but it’s likely that these connections are merely fun fortuities.
Is a lawyer named Lawson, Supina, Judge, or Justice predestined for work in the field of law? Some students of onomastics, or the study of names, say they are, and they can present arguments to support this belief. We as self-interested humans, they argue, often gravitate to things that remind us of us. This affinity for people and places that link us back ourselves is strong, and the mysterious link between names and choice of occupation may be the result of that pull – or not. It’s likely that, as with most psycho-social phenomena, nature (genetic predisposition to a particular type of work) and nurture (the influence of parents who assign children their names in the first place) both play a role. (For a stark example of how nature and nurture might impact a child’s future choices, occupational or otherwise, think of X Æ A-Xii, Elon Musk’s child, whose truly unique name is a seemingly impossible predictor of occupational choice.)
If you’d like to explore more aptronyms in all their uncanny glory, including law-related names, we suggest the following links:
What’s In A Name? A Brief Study of Legal Aptonyms – by Aaron Zelinsky, Michigan Law Review First Impressions (2012)
In the Name of the Law – Counsel Magazine (UK)
What’s In A Name? For These Famous Texans, Everything – Texas Standard
Finally, for a fun way to explore the profession prophesies for your own name, try this app for Apple and Android: Baby Names by Namerix. It will also allow you search by profession to see a list of common names represented in the selected field. An example, the profession of judge, is shown in the image at right.