Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge has been in the news a lot this week. These stories were all very serious issues that merit very serious discussion by very seriously-minded people. As I’m not a particularly seriously-minded person, however, I feel more comfortable turning my attention to something altogether more glib, trivial and frivolous.
Namely, so to speak, Lord Judge’s name.
It does seem slightly odd (to me, at least) that someone with the surname Judge ends up becoming the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. This would seem to support the theory of nominative determinism, whereby a person’s surname helps to influence their choice of career. If your surname is ‘Judge’, the theory goes, then you’ve spent so many of your formative years being referred to as ‘Judge’ that you’re going to be subliminally conditioned and/or subconsciously predisposed to pursue a career in the legal profession. Of course, with us human critters being the fairly complex engines of infinite possibility wot we are, things don’t always work out this way. Just ask Judge Reinhold from the Beverley Hills Cop movies.
Reinhold notwithstanding, Lord Judge isn’t the only example of nominative determinism. I first became aware it in the 1990s when New Scientist coined the term and it subsequently became a regular topic in the magazine’s Feedback section:
We recently came across a new book, Pole Positions – The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London – A Subterranean Guide, one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist: “Authors gravitate to the area of research which fits their surname.” Hunt’s example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology (…) by J. W. Splatt and D. Weedon. (Italics mine)
New Scientist – 5th November 1994
Besides Lord Judge and Messrs Splatt and Weedon, my favourite examples of possible cases of nominative determinism include the following:
- Former Minister of Agriculture, Douglas Hogg
- British neurologist Russell Brain.
- Urologist at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, Nicholas Burns-Cox.
- Association of British Police Officers spokesman on knife crime Alf Hitchcock.
- My secondary school English teacher, Mr Hyde.
- Former Microsoft Program Manager Noah Coad.
- Frances Crook OBE, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
- Former Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Sin (1928-2005)
- Law firm in Leamington Spa called Wright Hassall.
- German football team VfL Wolfsburg’s former coach, Wolfgang Wolf.
- Spokesman for the Reagan White House, Larry Speakes.
And my absolute favourite:
- Urologist who specialises in vasectomies: Dr Richard (Dick) Chopp
Nominative Determinism focuses on the connection between surnames and careers, but I sometimes wonder if the influence of a person’s surname can go beyond that and have an impact on their personality type and/or character. In this respect, the partial-to-booze chanteuse Amy Winehouse and the perpetually perky TV presenter Carol Smilie spring to mind, although I wish they didn’t. On a personal note, in a previous job I used to regularly deal with a pair of clients called Mr R. Sole and Mr I. Wankawala. I’m happy to say that they both lived up to their names.
And why should this just be limited to surnames? Can a person’s first name also have an impact on their personality type and/or character?
Somehow I doubt it. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?