Equivocal Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No 4 Contents Neo-Latin and Craft Latin: Recent Trends in Rival Latinitates—Fletcher Bowyer Scrugg

Nominative Determinism

Lynne Guisticks & Yoko Ono-Maztique
X. Quizzit Korps Center for Advanced Collaborative Studies


For many years sociolinguists have been investigating evidence that suggests that the name of a researcher may have a subtle but determinative effect on the field in which that researcher operates.

Or, as Nicolette Koch-Ehrend, Professor of General Specialization at the Free University of Monnie-Cash explains:

Two rather silly people named Sapir and Whorf had the idea that language determines thought in some way, rather like how the brand of tea determines the sort of afternoon cake one takes. This is all well and good for food, but their very names give lie to the importance of their claim. It sounds like ‘spear-warf,’ which any reasonably fluent German speaker will tell you means it’s just something with some sort of point they threw out there. I’ve thrown out lots of pointy things myself, like my ex-husband’s head, and let me tell you, it’s a case of reality determining the language I used in doing so.

We will briefly review the history of such Nominative Determinism and highlight some notable examples, while bringing to bear the latest research in onomastics, onomastatistics, and omnomnom.

Historical Developments

The practice of studying fields related to one’s name has deep historical roots, going back at least as far as 204 BC and the writings of Aristotle’s student Ἀνσίεντος Φιλοσόφηρaccording to recently published research by Phil O’Logist.

The basic tenets of the version of the Nominative Determinism hypothesis we know today were first put forward by British linguist Fee L. D. Studies in 1908. From the beginning the claims were very controversial. In 1912, a group of statisticians led by Norm Distribution and his students, Terry Test and Peter Value, argued that such occurrences are merely coincidental. Unfortunately, much of this early workboth for and againstwas riddled with errors, which were brought rather forcefully to the attention of the various authors in a scathing article by Ed Itter in 1913. In China, significant effort was put into stopping the endless and unproductive back and forth arguments between the pro- and anti-N.D. camps. Ping & Pong tabled a paper in 1915, which caused a great smash and netted them a measure of fame. After a period of quiescence, the controversy was re-ignited in 1931 in a series of papers by academic provocateur R. Abbel Rowzer that insulted and misrepresented both sides. The field has been in turmoil ever since.

A Soupçon of Case Studies

“The influence of any given linguist is directly related to that person’s interactional skill set”, argues Greg A. Ríos, as he obviously would. “Not so,” counters N. T. Rovert, claiming, “Thinking deeply, rather than promoting one’s ideas broadly, leads to the greatest influence.” Prophess Soar, doctor of Onomastopoetics at De Haut Vol University, counters, noting that his recent postdoc, Jen R. A. T’vist, has never even read Chomsky, nor has she sought to take over an entire field.

Other notable examples:

A Sprinkling of Local Flavor

The debate has raged even amongst the editors of this very journal, with Pete Bleackley denying that he does anything in a dismal manner. Meanwhile, Trey “B. N.” Jones, the Editor-in-Chief, added to the controversy when he qualified his own contribution as “very good,” especially in the area of francophone satire. Similarly, Keith Slater rejects allegations of having engaged in masonry activities, while Tim Pulju claims that he invariably pushes his ideological opponents.

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira admits to speaking Portuguese, but gets cross if you call her a blacksmith. Florian Breit is not unduly wide, but Jonathan Downie is known to assail his ideological opponents with the force of a pillow. Mark Mandel insists, with somewhat suspicious forcefulness, that he is not a spindle or an axle used to secure or support material being machined or milled, a primate native to Equatorial West Africa, connected with the Mandrell Sisters either individually or collectively, or related to Howie Mandel.

Bill Spruiell claims to be exactly what his name denotes, but won’t tell anyone what that is.

The Future of the Field

Moving away from simplistic links between naming and work, more theoretically minded linguists such as C. Myotic and D. Reader have argued that a name is simply an unstable referent with no interpretant. Since no one is actually sure what on earth those terms mean, nor what they have to do with “ground,” “interstices” and “the post-modern literary-polygyric condition”, no attempts have been made to evaluate their work.

That is probably for the best.

* Sister-in-law of one of the authors.

Equivocal Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
Neo-Latin and Craft Latin: Recent Trends in Rival LatinitatesFletcher Bowyer Scrugg
SpecGram Vol CLXXV, No 4 Contents