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OPINION: Compelled to find a job that suits their names

by Bernadette Kinlaw | June 7, 2021 at 1:53 a.m.

What's in a name? That's what Juliet wondered in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

She didn't think his family name should stop her from loving him just because their two families were enemies. But it definitely ended badly.

What about the people whose names guide them to their professions? Or those whose names seem unfortunate for their chosen jobs?

I started wondering about the idea and asked my Facebook friends to give me examples. From the list of people whose names fit perfectly:

A College of William & Mary ornithologist is named Mitchell Byrd.

A (former) Dallas Morning News editor is named Will Pry.

A real estate banker is named Sterling Silver.

Also, Norfolk, Va., had a longtime family funeral business: Graves Funeral Home.

Chesapeake, Va., once had a police chief named Richard Justice.

Miss D'Alto was an elementary school music teacher in my hometown, North Merrick, N.Y.

Jeff Feather owns Duff's Famous Wings in Buffalo, N.Y.

A museum in Sydney employs an ichthyologist named Dr. Anthony Gill.

My young friend named Jackson Skog will be attending a school of forest resources. His last name in Swedish translates to forest or woods.

Betsy Weatherhead was removed from her job this year by the Biden administration. The Washington Post described her as an experienced atmospheric scientist tapped by a Trump appointee to oversee the U.S. government's definitive report on the effects of climate change.

Forgive me for journalism-splaining, but wire services distribute news stories around the world. They're called wire services because Samuel Morse and his pals invented the telegraph, and the telegraph wires could transmit news near and far. Two examples of wire services are (the now defunct) UPI, or United Press International, and Reuters. In a small-world twist, a friend from my old newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, who teaches journalism at University of Missouri, mentioned a former student who worked for The Associated Press wire service after school. It turns out this reporter, Sarah Wire, also once worked at the Democrat-Gazette.

A huge number of the examples of appropriate names were in medicine:

Dr. Kervin Doctor in Tampa, Fla. That's Dr. Doctor to you.

Dr. David Mitten, orthopedic surgeon in Rochester, N.Y. His website says his clinical practice includes all aspects of hand and wrist surgery as well as peripheral nerve surgery and microsurgery.

Dr. Lauren Hyman of Agoura Hills, Calif., an OB/GYN

Dr. Christopher Huffer of Lebanon, Ind., a pulmonologist, or lung doctor

Two brothers in Hagerstown, Md., whose business was called Toothman Orthodontics

My orthopedist in New York named Dr. Bohne

Dr. Barney Softness of New York, a pediatrician

Dr. Angela Gum of Columbus, Ohio, a dentist

Dr. Carole S. Cutter of Los Angeles is a surgeon.

Dr. James Rash of Kingsport, Tenn., is a dermatologist.

And then we have some names that were unfortunate and seemed to counter their bearers' careers. You've probably heard a key part of the Hippocratic Oath is "First, do no harm." However, we have:

Dr. Howard Hertz is in Babylon, N.Y.

George Hurt is a neurosurgeon in Lynchburg, Va.

My orthopedic surgeon in Virginia Beach was named Dr. Payne.

Dr. Earl Q. Peeper is an OB/GYN in New Orleans.

Little Rock has Ake Family Dentistry. A source tells me Dr. Ake pronounces his name as "ache."

Salem, Va., has a gynecologist named Debra Clapp.

Outside the medical field, I heard about:

Cardinal (Jaime) Sin was a Catholic cleric in the Philippines.

Norfolk had a judge in traffic court for 22 years named Judge Lawrence Lawless.

Washington, D.C., has a lawyer named Phyllis Outlaw.

Little Rock, in the 1930s, had a fire chief named Charles Burns.

Even with all these jewels, I wanted to hear more.

The Times Higher Education site found a university professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies named Dr. Boring.

West Virginia University has an accounting professor named Richard Dull.

My condolences to those two professors.

Imperial College in London has a Professor Alan Heavens, chair of astrostatistics, which today I learned is statistics applied to astronomical data.

The website Sketchplanations found a book titled "London Under London: A Subterranean Guide." Who wrote it? Richard Trench.

"Pole Positions: The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet" was written by Daniel Snowman. (Related to Abominable?)

A homebuilder and contractor in Indiana is named Paul Schwinghammer.

A BBC article found a Dr. Donald Butts, who is a colon and rectal surgeon in Houston. Also, a Dr. David Limb, who is an orthopedic surgeon in Leeds, England. When I was looking online for Limb, I found David Stubbs, who does limb reconstruction in the Oxford, England, area.

And the BBC article led me to the website of the magazine New Scientist, which defined "nominative determinism" as the concept that your name determines your career choice. I'll say that this magazine has repeatedly written on the topic and seems to have no doubt that the connections are valid.

Its site also asked me to pay for access, which I didn't want to do even though I would have gotten a free jigsaw puzzle. But I was able to peek at some brilliant examples.

Dr. Alex Hogg, who unfortunately died in 2006, was a swine veterinarian.

Eight employees at the United Kingdom's Royal Horticultural Society have apt names. Four are named Heather; three people have the last name Berry; and three others are named Moss.

And I'll end with my favorite.

Two researchers who wrote a paper on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology were named A.J. Splatt and D. Weedon.

Sources include The Times Higher Education,, BBC, New Scientist. Reach Bernadette at

Print Headline: Name, job sometimes connected


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