What is a Nominative Determinism?

Posted on March 25, 2015

My friend Darren posted something on Facebook yesterday that was asking whether the fact that David Beckham was born at Whipps Cross Hospital was an example of a nominative determinism.

For those of you on the planet Zark, David Beckham, in between silly haircuts and marrying a pouting, poor excuse for a pop singer, was once a footballer who was renowned for his ability to whip in crosses for his grateful team-mates playing for England, Manchester United, Real Madrid and L.A Cadbury or whatever they were called.

So Whipps Cross Hospital was quite an apt name for the birthplace of David Beckham, but it can’t really be classed as a nominative determinism as it is not associated directly to name. If his name was David Bendham however, we really would be in business.

Intrigued by nominative determinisms, I looked them up on the internet and discovered that psychologists have often worked on a theory of symmetry that suggests that people could be inexorably drawn to their name when it came to their chosen career. For example, I had a plumber working for me once called Richard Tapp.

Also known as an aptronym, the term “positive determinism” was coined by New Scientist journalist, John Hoyland, after he was alerted by a scientific report that was written about issues with incontinence.

The report, I kid you not, was written by none other than JW Splatt and D Weedon. It was a remarkable day for Hoyland because just a few hours later he discovered a book on the Polar Regions by Daniel Snowman. It leads a cynic to believe that Hoyland was telling fibs to create a good story, but these publications do actually exist.

Hoyland is not the first to come up with this theory, psychologist Karl Jung wrote in his book, Synchronicity (1952), that there was a “sometimes quite grotesque coincidence between a man’s name and his peculiarities”.

Jung used as an example, the psychiatrist Freud, which translates as “joy” and relates to his pleasure principle, and his own name (Jung) meaning young – and his theory of rebirth, as examples of  what he described “the compulsion of the name”.

However despite Hoyland’s theories, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that people are drawn to their names in their profession. In fact when you see names such as Butcher, Baker, Tailor and Smith where people were named after their chosen professions, they actually evolved in reverse to his theory.

However, it is a subject that is good fun amongst a seemingly endless list of bad news stories this week, so I have found some great examples of nominative determinisms to lighten up your day. Please do add any you know of in the comments page at the bottom of the post.


Mark Avery – Former Director of the RSPB

Randy Vickers – Vicar

Dick Chopp – Urologist

Bruno Fromage – MD of Dairy Company Danone

Rod Muddle – Aviation Planner

Vani Stambalovo (Above) – Bulgarian 110 metre hurdler

Robin Mahfood – CEO-Food for the Poor

Sgt Paul Paulos – St Pauls Police

Christian Guy – Centre for Social Justice

And of course, who could forget the poet, William Wordsworth.

By the way…if anyone is interested, my very own spring collection of hand crafted, ornamental Leather Bee’s, are now available at just £14.99


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