LINGUIST List 3.1005

Mon 21 Dec 1992

Sum: Meta-Word

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  1. "J.L. Mackenzie", meta-word
  2. "Bruce E. Nevin", autonomastics

Message 1: meta-word

Date: Fri, 18 Dec 92 11:06:53 MEmeta-word
From: "J.L. Mackenzie" <lachlanlet.vu.nl>
Subject: meta-word

I think that the meta-word Bruce Nevin is looking for is
'aptronym', from apt and -onym, with epenthetic r, coined,
according to the The Oxford Companion to the English Language (ed.
Tom McArthur, 1992) by Franklin P. Adams. The Companion gives some
wonderful examples, such as Lt.Col. Will B. Snow, who was assigned
to issue Arctic gear to Pentagon reporters headed for Alaska,
pointing out that there are also fictional aptronyms used for
allegorical and satirical purposes. I remember as a child in
Aberdeen, Scotland being delighted to discover a market gardener
called Riddle and an optician called I. Straine. And, a little off
the subject perhaps, there is a do-it-yourself shop in Nijmegen,
Netherlands called Wanco!

Lachlan Mackenzie
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Message 2: autonomastics

Date: Mon, 21 Dec 92 10:15:49 ESautonomastics
From: "Bruce E. Nevin" <bnevinccb.bbn.com>
Subject: autonomastics

On behalf of a colleague here at BBN, I had asked you all about a
term for names that coincidentally describe the person named.

My neologistic tag "meta-name" is I suppose pre-empted by
metonym. What my friend is after is almost the converse of
metonymy. (The example metonym given in Webster's 9th NCD is
"the crown" in "lands belonging to the crown").

Thanks to Susan Donnelly, Claudia Brugman, Robert A Amsler,
Cynthia Hagstrom, J.L. Mackenzie, Terry Gordon, Christine
Kamprath, Mark Turnbull, Ernie Limperis, James E. Cathey, David
Justice, and Alan Harris for their responses.

Many people mentioned that Herb Caen, well known to many of us as
a columnist seemingly since the beginning of time for the San
Francisco Chronicle, boasts of a large collection of these terms.
Those interested in them he calls "namephreaks" (but, pace one
respondant, this is probably not his word for these terms as a
class). Another collection belongs to Lew Lipsitt, a
psychologist at Brown. His are examples of people becoming like
that which their names suggest. He spoke on the topic a few
years ago to the Onomastic Society. "I just don't have a name
for the phenomenon," he says, "for fear that it will become what
I name it." The power of the pun. Certain SciFi writers come
readily to mind. I suggested to him a line from Dostoyevsky's
_The Idiot_: "The fools! Don't they know they make of a person
what they say of him?"

Robert Amsler suggests:

>How about Appronyms
>(Appropriate -nyms)

This proposed coinage is quite close to that already reported to
the list by Lachlan Mackenzie:

> I think that the meta-word Bruce Nevin is looking for is
> 'aptronym', from apt and -onym, with epenthetic r, coined,
> according to the The Oxford Companion to the English Language (ed.
> Tom McArthur, 1992) by Franklin P. Adams.

I have not found this in a dictionary. Yet.

(Extraneous aside: the structure of the preceding paragraph might
have provided a model for the "delayed NOT" construction.)

Mackenzie and others submitted many examples of these puns, not
all in English--one of his was Dutch and James Cathey
offered several in German--which I have reluctantly omitted here
since we all easily could and as easily would multiply them :-)
The thought of the punishment to our editors in some protracted
punnic war urges us to forbear.

But a request:
/******************************************************************
* Please do send examples to me, and I will pass them along to *
* Professor Lipsitt (as he has asked). *
*******************************************************************

David Justice suggested that:
>A traditional tag for such things is "nomen omen" (the name is a sign
>of the thing).

Terry Gordon also recalled the
>Latin proverb "nomen est omen" which inspires me to various pure and
>hybrid neologisms: omenclature, omenym, ominame, antenym.

Christine Kamprath reminds us of

>James Lipton's book An
>Exaltation of Larks, which is a collection of "venereal" (i.e.,
>hunting) terms for groups of animals, things like "knot of toads",
>"pride of lions". He noted that not only were these attested,
>"legitimate" names for these groups of animals, but that they also
>described a quality of the group. He then presented a second group of
>terms which were not strictly "venereal" but also described a quality
>of the group, e.g., a bevy of beauties (bevy < French word for
>"drink", referring to beauties sitting around a pool). And then he
>proposed a slew of his own humorous ones: flourish of strumpets,
>(extreme) unction of undertakers, puree of strap-hangers.

Alan Harris extended the discussion to visual puns, saying that
examples like

> the Sheila Freeze, . . . may be on the order of a "punjab"--a humorous
>device to pair with pictures, e.g., picture this under-the-weather eaglehawk
>in bed with thermometer in beak and the title in print "illegal" (!)

On the cautionary note that is implicit (I hope!) in this
expansion of the topic to puns of all kinds, I trust we will stop
here, and so will I. A pun my word.

 Bruce Nevin
 bnbbn.com
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