Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When the Name Makes the Man

On Slate, Timothy Noah points out that "Tony Snow" is an aptronym, a name that describes its bearer's occupation or predominant characteristic. (Curiously enough, sister Ingrid phoned me from work a couple of months ago asking me if there was a word for such a name. I couldn't think of aptronym at the time, but a colleague of hers did.) Noah's point, of course, is that the new White House press secretary will be in charge of "snow jobs."

That works, but I have an even better example from the exact same field. A decade ago or so, I published a couple of books produced by the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company. The McKinsey staffer I worked with on these projects was a communications specialist (= PR guy) remarkably named Stuart Flack--practically the equivalent of a lawyer named Shyster or a physician named Quack.

I hadn't thought about Stuart Flack in many years. Prompted by Noah's aptronym watch, I Googled him, learned that he is still at McKinsey, and discovered that he is also an award-winning playwright, author of Homeland Security, a play about racial profiling in the post-9/11 era. Whaddaya know--pretty good for a corporate flack.

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