William Wordsworth: How Last Names (Sometimes) Determine Your Career

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William Wordsworth is a famous poet. Usain Bolt broke the record for fastest human being.  Somewhere out there, a guy named Daniel Snowman authored a book called Pole Positions: The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet.

Coincidence? Scientists think not.

According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people are more likely to “choose careers whose labels resemble their names.” The paper—“Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions”—explains that people named Denise or Dennis are far more likely to practice dentistry than people with other names. As the authors say, people “prefer things that are connected to the self (for example, the letters in one’s name).”

The fancy term for this idea is called nominative determinism—or aptronyms.

Even more interesting are the individuals who choose career paths which seem to directly contradict their surnames. How about Nicholas Burns-Cox, a consultant urologist at Musgrove Park Hospital in the UK? Or Dr. Payne?

As William Shakespeare once wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Yes, Ol’ Will, a rose by any other name would smell just the same, but if your last name is Rose, then you might just be the local florist.