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In the wake of the Anthony Weiner scandal, it was hard not to think of possible links between our names and our fates. (iStockphoto.com)

What's In A Name? Maybe The Key To Your Career

Jun 26, 2011

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April Fehling, one of the TOTN producers, desperately needed a fisherman to talk with us on the air about recent changes in fishing regulations. So naturally, one of the first names she came across was a Mr. Crabbe, a longtime commercial fisherman in California. Another potential guest, a Mr. Crowder, sounded very close to "chowder."

In the wake of the Congressman Weiner scandal, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story on the fascinating, if not particularly scientific, link between our names and the professions we choose.

When personal-injury lawyer Patricia Z. Boguslawski argued her first motion in court, the judge paused when he saw her name.

"He said, on the record, 'Bogus law. Bogus law.' I said, 'Yes your honor, bogus law is in my name. However, the law that I am about to argue is not bogus," Ms. Boguslawski recalls. The Teaneck, N.J.-based lawyer went on to win the motion.

And there are others: Dr. Richard Chopp performs vasectomies; The Goodhouse family sells real estate in Weirton, W.V.; Jacqueline Rose Hott works as a sex therapist; Sue Yoo is an attorney in Los Angeles, and Will Wynn won two terms as mayor of Austin, TX.

The phenomenon even has a name, nominal determinism, and a controversial 2002 study to give it just enough credibility to linger on the web.

Researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo found that people were more likely to choose professions with names that are similar to their own first names. Another study, out of Wayne State University, Detroit, found that medical doctors and lawyers were more likely to have last names that somehow evoked their professions. It was published last year in the journal "Names: A Journal of Onomastics."

Frank Nuessel doesn't believe any of it. He's a professor of languages and linguistics at the University of Louisville and edits the "Names" journal. He's quoted in the WSJ piece saying, "Most of these tend to be accidental."

Still, my freshman year of college I declared myself an engineering major. That lasted half of a semester before I started classes in radio and TV. I guess with a name that sounds an awful lot like "camera" I never really stood a chance.

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