Vo­cab

Friday - - Mind Games -

The English lan­guage has many ‘-nym’ words: syn­onym (a word hav­ing the same mean­ing as another), antonym (one with an op­po­site mean­ing), homonym (a word pro­nounced the same as another but dif­fer­ing in mean­ing), and so on.

And where there isn’t a term for an in­ter­est­ing kind of word, you can bet lo­gol­o­gists (word fiends) will soon coin a new ‘-nym’ word for that too.

Take ‘aptronym’, for in­stance. That’s sim­ply a name suited to its owner – a first name or sur­name, cap­i­talised, and the same word serv­ing as a reg­u­lar noun or verb de­scrib­ing some well­known at­tribute of the person.

Some years ago word ex­pert Richard Led­erer com­piled some in­ter­est­ing ones from the sport­ing world, such as Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest sprinter; Mar­garet Smith, an un­re­mark­able name for a ten­nis player, un­til she took on an ad­di­tional name af­ter mar­riage – Court! Led­erer also chron­i­cles some lesser-known aptronyms: foot­ball star Jim Ki­ick; base­ball stars Early Wynn, Herb Score, Johnny Bench and Ce­cil and Prince Fielder; and golf stars Gary Player and Tiger Woods (woods are golf clubs).

Broaden the scope, and you’ll find aptronyms ev­ery­where:

In the late 19th cen­tury, Louis Jean and Au­guste Marie Lu­mière cre­ated the first movies that told sto­ries. In French, Lu­miere means light.

English jour­nal­ist and TV per­son­al­ity Nigella Law­son is a re­puted gourmet and food writer (nigella, also called black cumin, is a spice in In­dian and Mid­dle Eastern cuisines).

A Bri­tish neu­rol­o­gist with the first and mid­dle names Wal­ter Rus­sell, and who wrote a book en­ti­tled Dis­eases of the Ner­vous Sys­tem, had a most apt last name – Brain.

Any­one re­mem­ber pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Larry Speakes?

No prizes for guess­ing which in­stru­ment Colin Bass plays in the English pro­gres­sive rock band Camel, just as Jim Horn is a sax­o­phone and wood­wind player.

What if a name is com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate or de­scribes the op­po­site of what the person is? That would be an in­aptronym. One of the more un­for­tu­nate of these was a des­ig­na­tion and sur­name com­ing to­gether for the late Arch­bishop of Manila – Car­di­nal Sin. Be­fore dis­solv­ing into ig­nominy, Lance Arm­strong was bet­ter known for leg strength. And fi­nally, who is the only mem­ber of the Texas blues band ZZ Top trio not to have a beard? Frank Beard.

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