Nominative determinism is the hypothesis that people are drawn to
professions that fit their name. The term was first used in the magazine
New Scientist in 1994, after its humorous Feedback column mentioned a
book on polar explorations by Daniel Snowman and an article on urology
by researchers named Splatt and Weedon. The hypothesis had been
suggested by psychologist Carl Jung, citing as an example Sigmund Freud
(German for “joy”), who studied pleasure. A few recent empirical studies
have indicated that certain professions are disproportionately
represented by people with appropriate surnames, though the methods of
these studies have been challenged. One explanation for nominative
determinism is the theory of implicit egotism, which states that humans
have an unconscious preference for things they associate with
themselves. An alternative explanation is genetic: an ancestor might
have been named Smith or Taylor according to their occupation, and the
genes they passed down might correlate to aptitudes for those
Today’s selected anniversaries:
Robert Winchelsey left England for Rome to be consecrated by
the Pope, only to find that there wasn’t one.
Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-
Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos opened a new train line,
using horses instead of locomotives.
Wrigley Jr. opened a company, packaging chewing gum with each
can of baking powder.
Over 20% of the Royal New Zealand Navy took the day off.
Marriage in the Netherlands became more samey.
Wiktionary’s word of the day:
Banbury story of a cock and a bull:
(idiomatic, obsolete, slang, Britain) A roundabout, nonsensical story.
Wikiquote quote of the day:
All of us, if we are of reflective habit, like and admire men
whose fundamental beliefs differ radically from our own. But when a
candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of
sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact
that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of
comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking
is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what
they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark
with the pack or count himself lost. … All the odds are on the man who
is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can
most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The
Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is
perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul
of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious
day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last,
and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
–H. L. Mencken
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