Name Game '08 | Culture | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Name Game '08 

Another year, another list of folks whose names match their professions

Published December 24, 2008 at 6:17 a.m. | Updated December 28, 2015 at 9:10 p.m.

Though most people are unfamiliar with the word “aptronym” — and spell-checking programs tend to flag it as an error — we’ve all encountered the phenomenon. An aptronym is a name that all too well suits its bearer’s profession, hobby or other distinguishing characteristic. Years ago, for instance, I had a camp nurse named Sandy Sheets, my uncle had a dentist named Lou Smoler and my mom knew an ophthalmologist named Dr. I. Ball. Our local weatherman was Storm Field, and a nearby veterinarian was named Dr. Barker.

Over the past 12 months, Seven Days staffers have compiled a list of nearly two dozen new aptronyms we chanced on in the course of our reporting. A few, like University of Vermont geographer Austin Remy Troy, aren’t immediately obvious. (All three of his names are geographic places.) Then there are the anti-aptronyms, or names that seem to contradict their bearers’ calling — such as Don Black, the former Ku Klux Klansman who founded the white supremacist website Stormfront.

Got a few good aptronyms of your own? Send them along to

  • Trevor and Russell Ashe, Barre firefighters
  • Margaret Provost, St. Michael’s College administrator
  • Alan Quackenbush, Vermont wetlands ecologist
  • John T. Coffin, St. Johnsbury funeral director
  • Vern Grubinger, UVM fruit and plant expert
  • Dr. Walter Russell Brain, British neurologist and author of the standard neurological text Brain’s Diseases of the Nervous System
  • Alicia Keys, pianist
  • Birgitte Sloth, obesity and exercise researcher
  • Bill Dolphin, cetacean researcher
  • Christian Smith, sociologist of religion
  • Deb Hitter, walking-stick maker
  • Susun Weed, herbalist
  • Nancy Nipples, owner of a Seattle-area store that sells high-end dairy products
  • Kook Jung, psychiatrist
  • Sue and Gary Butts, owners of “Butts A’Running Bare Race Management,” which organizes clothing-optional runs
  • John Pepper, CEO and co-founder of the Boloco burrito chain
  • Joseph Boardman, Amtrak CEO
  • Kathleen Newland, national refugee advocate

And two anti-aptronyms:

  • Dr. James Clapp, Medical Center Hospital of Vermont OB/GYN
  • Anna Drinkwine, Victory Center Church pastor

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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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