- December 6, 2016
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Categories: All Blogs, Word of the Week Blog
Oh no not another blog about Donald Trump? Yes but, because this is the word-of-the-week, I am not going to talk about his politics, his personality or his effect on the world as we know it. Instead I want to look at the meaning of his name and what it tells us about him.
I have always been fascinated by what New Scientist Magazine columnist John Hoyland (in 1994) dubbed nominative determinism. It is the hypothesis that people gravitate towards jobs that fit their name. The magazine drew attention to several researchers whose names seemed to match their scientific specialisation. The examples they cited included a book on polar exploration by Daniel Snowman and an article on urology by researchers named Splatt and Weedon (oh dear, what can you say to that).
New Scientist also coined the term nominative contradeterminism for people who move away from their name, creating a contradiction between their name and occupation. I have a friend who worked in an emergency ward as Nurse Dye and she told me she was working with a Doctor Death!
The idea of names determining professions has been around since the Romans who had a proverb nomen est omen, meaning the name is a sign. Lawrence Casler, a psychologist, proposed in the 1970s that there are three possible explanations for career-appropriate names :
1) a person’s self-image and self-expectations are influenced by their name (also known as implicit egotism)
2) the name acts as a social stimulus, creating expectations in others that are projected onto the individual
3) attributes suited to a particular career are genetically passed down the generations with the matching occupational name
Which brings us to Donald Trump. Trump is a very old English word with several meaning and used both as a verb and as noun.
The first meaning of trump means either to surpass or to beat. It is used in card games when a particular suite (diamonds, hearts, spades or clubs) becomes the dominant card and beats all the others. Hence the trump is the winning card. This meaning is thought to derive from triumph.
The second meaning of trump is to fabricate or deceive. It is commonly found in the expression trumped up meaning that something has been concocted to deceive. Trumpery is another manifestation of the word, meaning without value, nonsense, twaddle. This version of trump derives from the Old French word tromper meaning to deceive. It comes from the expression baillier la trompe, meaning to blow the trumpet. This was the method that street conmen would use to attract an audience before tricking them into buying dodgy items.
The third meaning of trump comes from English slang and refers to the passing of wind from one’s rear. It is another derivative of trumpet but for more obvious reasons.
The first question: is Donald Trump’s career so far an example of nominative determinism whether from his self-image, social interaction or genetic pre-disposition? And the second, if it is, is he a triumph, a conman or a passing of wind? What do you think?