February was a busy month for me at work; my intended post on Alfred Döblin is still on its way.
Last week I visited friends in London and thoroughly enjoyed the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I took particular pleasure in seeing his painting of Henry James that I used in a recent post on his story ‘The Author of Beltraffio’.
Back in Nov. 2013 I posted on ‘hypocorism’ – people’s names as diminutive or pet forms like Billy for William. I went on to consider mononyms, anthroponyms, endonyms, exonyms, and so on.
Just now I encountered a tweet from the OED with a similar term that I’d not previously known: APTRONYM: A name regarded as (humorously) appropriate to a person’s profession or personal characteristics. It can also be spelled (or spelt!) APTONYM.
Among the citations in the OED online are these:
1986 Los Angeles Times 16 Feb. vi. 1/1 According to the American Name Society, they’re called aptonyms, that is, surnames which..have turned out to be incredibly apt. A brief search for local aptonyms produced Tommy Trotter, the new director of racing at Hollywood Park.2002 Winnipeg Free Press 19 Jan. a14/2 He began collecting aptronyms 30 years ago, when he saw an ad in his local paper for a flower shop operated by Flora Gardner.
Polish (Polanski): ethnic name for a Pole, or more specifically for a descendant of the Polanie, one of the original Polish tribes.Polish, Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic), Ukrainian, and Belorussian: topographic name for someone who lived in a clearing, from polana ‘glade’, ‘clearing’ (a derivative of pole ‘field’), or a habitational name for someone from placed called Polana, Polanka, Polany, or any of various other places named with polana.
1956 Nat. Cactus & Succulent Jrnl. 2 3/1 A name may qualify as a caconym in different ways. First, from sheer length… Second, from the clash of consonants making it difficult (for a European at least) to articulate.
Which reminded me of the plant EUONYMUS, defined by OED online thus:
A genus of shrubs (family Celastraceæ), of which many species are now cultivated as ornamental plants. The only British species is the Spindle-tree, otherwise known as the peg-, prick-, skewerwood from the uses to which its wood is applied.
Etymology: < Latin euōnymos (Pliny xiii. xxxviii. §118), subst. use of Greek εὐώνυμος of good name, lucky, < εὐ- (see eu- comb. form) + ὄνομα, in Aeolic ὄνυμα name.Pliny says that the flowering of the euonymus was a presage of pestilence; hence it seems probable that the name ‘lucky’ was given with euphemistic intention.
I love the way one word leads to another. A linguistic dérive…