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.