Aptonyms for the New Year

Because a new year has begun, it seems a good time to unveil some of the aptonyms that we’ve been accumulating. (Earlier aptonym posts can be found here.)

1. During a recent N.F.L. game between the Bears and the Vikings, played on a frigid Monday night in Chicago, I learned that the city has a prominent meteorologist named Amy Freeze. I imagine she would have a hard time finding work in Miami. Meanwhile, the game’s referee was Ron Winter.

2. Another example gleaned from football: The St. Louis Rams have an offensive lineman named Richie Incognito. As football fans know, there is no football player more incognito than a member of the offensive line. Alas, this Incognito seems determined to buck his naming destiny: he has been repeatedly fined and penalized for outrageous on-field behavior; he’s flipped the bird at a TV reporter; and he reportedly “has 23 television screens installed inside his 2006 BMW 750, including one in his gas cap door.”

3. Here’s a third football-related aptonym, though in a way this is more of a stage name than an aptonym. Luke Ravenstahl, the young mayor of Pittsburgh, didn’t like the fact that his last name made him sound like a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, the hated rival whom his Steelers are playing in the A.F.C. Conference Championship this Sunday. So he has temporarily changed his name to Steelerstahl. (Since “stahl” is German for “steel,” he already had a pretty good name — something like Black Steel, I guess — but you can’t be too superstitious when a Super Bowl is on the line.)

4. A reader named Michael Dorr writes in to say: “Surely, Bernie Madoff has the greatest aptonym in the history of aptonyms. It’s as if he was predestined to perpetrate this very crime.” Indeed, as related in one article about Madoff’s alleged fraud: “Upstairs in the women’s dining room, a woman joked that she now knew the proper way to pronounce his name. ‘Made off,’ she said. ‘You know, like he made off with all our money.'”

5. A reader named Andrew McIntyre writes in to tell of “a copyright lawyer who also leads her firm’s music-industry practice group.” Her name? “Cydney Tune!” Then there’s the Sullivan & Cromwell associate named — so efficiently — Sue Yoo. (Hat tip to Ryan Phelps for that one.)

6. As always, there was no shortage of submissions dealing with urology and related fields. Alex Hagen writes to tell us that the author of a 1986 paper called “Circumcision and Urinary Tract Infections,” published in the academic journal Pediatrics, is none other than Thomas E. Wiswell. Another reader, Jared Goodwin, wrote: “A friend of mine was looking for a good doctor [from whom] to get a vasectomy in Austin, Tex. He came across this guy: Dick Chopp.”

7. Also in Austin, Tex., the assistant director of the water department is named Daryl Slusher. (Thanks to Raj Pandravada.) There’s a button collector in Reno named Dorothy Button. (Hat tip: Van Brenner.) And the v.p. of distribution for Hannaford, the supermarket chain with very good produce, is named Gerry Greenleaf.

8. The world of vice provides a couple of good examples. A reader named Flip alerted us to a Smoking Gun story about a madam at a Colorado brothel named — well, go read it for yourself here. (Warning: may violate certain decency standards.) And as approximately 895 readers let us know, this Times Op-Ed on teen cocaine use was written by none other than Charles Blow.

Finally, if an aptonym is a name that aptly describes what you do, what should we call a name that does the opposite? To me, “optonym” would seem an obvious choice. That word doesn’t yet exist, apparently.

So we’ll just have to invent it, as we did with “penultamour.” It strikes me that one obvious optonym candidate is the country singer Keith Urban — who, with his wife Nicole Kidman, recently had a baby named Sunday Rose.

She was so named, according to this Wikipedia page, because Sunday “is Keith and Nicole’s favorite day of the week.” Which makes her something like an aspirational aptonym born of a Kidman and an optonym.

Tim H

I once had an ingrown toenail corrected by a podiatrist by the name of Dr. Walker.


This has to be the best name ever:

"Staff Sgt. Max Fightmaster, a computer technician, is one of thousands of Army National Guard and Reserve members who could soon be called up to active duty in Iraq. "


James Roche

2 favorites:

1) When I was a boy, I had a circumcision performed by a "Dr. Raezer"

2) Johnny & Edgar Winter were marketed as albino brothers playing Texas blues before branching off on their own. Even if the identity came at the expense of maintaining dye jobs, the agent was a genius and, despite the lackluster wikipedia page, Johnny Winter is a fabulous guitar player and all-around performer. Winter is indeed their real last name, and they've always, to this day, performed with snow-white heads of hair.


An aptonym and optonym I came across this year:

I read a National Geographic article a few months ago describing the work of a former logger who had become a conservationist. His last name - Sawchuk.

Also a few months ago, a friend of mine was telling me about a family she knows that consists of eleven children. The given name of the tenth child - Lastone.


About the name of Pittsburgh's mayor ... at first glance I thought his last name, Ravenstahl, indicated opposition to Baltimore's NFL team ... i.e. it meant to "stall" the "Ravens."

Yeah, I know, German "Stahl" doesn't mean the same thing as English "stall," nor does it sound alike (in German it'd be pronounced like "shtall"), but there's a resemblance, no? Oder soll ich fragen, "Nein?"


A Republican (of course) named Rich White ran for DA somewhere in Ohio in 2003.



The Chicago Bears center, an offensive lineman, is named Olin.

Scott W

There's a realtor in my city named Julie Holmes:



Back in Michigan, there was a chiropractor name Dr. Bender.

James Roche

Johnny and Edgar Winter are indeed albinos, which makes my comment above even awesomer.

From a biography on Johnny:

"Born cross-eyed and albino, Johnny Winter (John Dawson Winter III) disregarded Mother Nature's unkindness to forge a career as one of the few great white blues-rockers."


Author Sarah Vowell.


Steve Smear was an All American Linebacker at Penn State. Also, I used to work with a man whose last name of Crum was very apporpriate.


These make me laugh for days! My siblings and I were delivered by Dr. Payne and Dr. Fury.


Near where I live there's a chiropractor called Steve Backman



There used to be a big shingle near us for Dr. Leonard J. Finger.

Unfortunately, he was an optometrist, not a proctologist.

Andrew Laurence

Has no one noticed that Bernard Madoff MADE OFF with his client's money?

Leland Witter

A colleague of Dr. Chopp is Dr. Hardeman, who of course can help you with erectile dysfunction.


Optonym? Costanza might be better. Anyone happening upon this "word" would think of George and have a clear understanding of its meaning

Prof. P

I interviewed at a university some years ago where the president's name was Lick and the vice-president's name was Hitt. Since the position was a named chair, I was also interviewed by a forestry professor by the name of Greenwood. It was tough to keep a straight face.

Douglas Gallop

My last name is Gallop and I work for the New York Racing Association ... and I never intended to, either!