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Name Game 2010 

What's in a name? For some people, the perfect profession or proclivity

click to enlarge MICHAEL TONN

Do we choose our professions, or do they choose us? For some people, the answer may depend upon the name they were given at birth. Who among us hasn’t come across the hobbyist, tradesman or professional whose name is a perfect match for his or her profession or avocation?

For the fourth year in a row, I’ve compiled an annual list of these so-called “aptronyms,” with help from my fellow Seven Days wordsmiths and astute readers. I don’t search for these names, though other such lists abound on the Internet, but simply write them down when I or my colleagues chance upon them. What’s amazing, each year, is how commonplace aptronyms are — so much so that we often don’t notice them until we see them on this list.

For example, anyone old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s presidency may recall the name of one of his press secretaries: Larry Speakes. More recently, President George W. Bush’s secretary of education was named Margaret Spellings.

Closer to home, the director of communications at the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing is named Erica Houskeeper. In fact, previous years’ lists have turned up an abundance of aptronyms in state government, including many who work for the Department of Fish & Wildlife, among them wildlife biologists Forrest Hammond and John Buck, and former chief game warden Robert Rooks.

Earlier lists included place-name aptronyms, such as the $232.1 million winning Powerball ticket that was purchased in the town of Winner, S.D. They’ve also included anti-aptronyms, such as Dr. James Clapp, a Vermont OB/GYN. This year, I came across three almost-aptronyms, which I call “close but no cigar.” Enjoy!

  • Lisa Angstman: Williston psychologist
  • Adrian Bloom: owner of Blooms Nurseries
  • Katherine Bloom: New York City allergist
  • Max Boot: senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who wrote a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism
  • Chris Bray: former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor and horse-farm owner (technically, horses don’t “bray,” but donkeys do)
  • Lela Buttery: Vermont raw-milk advocate
  • Mark Drinkwater: European Space Agency expert on polar glacier melt
  • Dan Eaton: “Cooking at Home” host for TV news channel NY1
  • Margaret Fowle: director of Vermont’s Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project
  • Michael Hunter: A Manchester, N.H., man who bought a weapon at a gun show, then accidentally shot himself in the leg
  • Edward Johnson: chronic public masturbator from Barre
  • Dianne Lamb: food and nutrition specialist with the University of Vermont Extension
  • Gerard J. Petit (“Pet it”) Jr.: Bristol man caught by Williston police earlier this year masturbating inside a parked vehicle
  • Melody Puller: Vermont pianist
  • Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming: first director of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who urged his agents to use semen as invisible ink
  • Brenda Snow: director of human resources, Turtle Fur winter apparel
  • Kent Wells: British Petroleum (BP) vice president and spokesperson on the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster

Close but no cigar:

  • Dr. John Fortune: surgeon at Fletcher Allen Health Care (if only he performed superexpensive plastic surgeries)
  • Dr. Neil Hyman: Burlington colon and rectal surgeon (wrong hole)
  • Dr. Mark Plante: urologist (great aptronym if he treated canines instead of humans)

Got your own aptronym?

Contact Ken Picard at

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


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