I Heart Indies

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aptonym December 20, Figures of Speech


After a disastrous week as a diner owner,
John Crapper considers going into another line of work
 Aptonym: From apt “fitting” + nym, “name” is when the name of a person describes his character or occupation. This has long been used as a literary device. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress has such appallingly obvious names as, Christian, Evangelist, Vanity, and Pliable. Dickens, too, stoops to more than one aptonym: the Cherybul brothers are cheery and Peddle and Pool are solicitors. Poe uses ironic aptonyms in “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montressor – literally man+tresser, a man who ties up other men, chains up Fortunato – he is far from fortunate - in the deepest recess of a catacomb. Twentieth Century writers did not eschew aptonyms either. Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, who has come unstuck in time, is every bit as much  a Pilgrim as Bunyan’s; Faulkner’s Colonel Sartoris has a sartorial air about him; and there is something small and rodenty in Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom. We can’t mistake Tyrone Slothrop or Humbert Humbert as anything but aptonyms even though their meaning is unclear; they are as apt onomatopoetically as Ebeneezer Scrooge or Sherlock Holmes.
The most apt of all aptonyms are purely coincidental: Bernie Madoff, William Wordsworth, Lorena Bobbitt, Thomas Crapper, Francine Prose, Gary Player, Anna Smashnova, and Anthony Weiner.

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