When I was in high school, my Driver's Education instructor was Mr. Brake. Yeah, we thought it was a riot, too. But that was actually his name. My dentist at that time was Dr. Hirt, also appropriate. That was my first real-life introduction to the concept of the aptronym -- a name aptly suited to its owner.
My only exposure to aptronyms up to that point had been through fictional characters in comic books. With Superman, SpiderMan and Wolverine, their names told you exactly who they were. Even villains like Magneto and Sabretooth had names that revealed their individual powers or personalities. Beginning in the 1960's Bond girls in movies continued the use of aptronyms with a comedic flair, adding a sexual twist. Pussy Galore, Honey Ryder and Plenty O'Toole were deliberately named to be suggestive, if not downright blatant, in the images they evoked.
I hadn't given much thought to aptronyms until the recent sexting scandal hit New York politics. Anthony Weiner's latest revelations and his propensity for sexting and hooking up over the phone torpedoed his mayoral campaign (sorry, I couldn't resist). Weiner's exploits were a gift to reporters eager to use a double entendre wherever possible. Those possibilities seemed endless, especially for the NY Post. " Weiner: I'll Stick it Out," "Weiner Exposed" and "Weiner's Second Coming" were among the most amusing. Seeing the politician flail in public opinion made it impossible not to proclaim that Weiner was going soft in the polls.
Anthony Weiner is no longer just a politician whose reckless and bizarre compulsions have all but destroyed his career. Weiner is an aptronym. Some might suggest that so is his latest partner in sext -- Sydney Leathers. My first question to the 23 year old virtual mistress when I interviewed her for Inside Edition was, "What is your real last name?" Let's face it -- the idea of "Weiner in Leathers" (even if only though phone sex) seemed scripted, if not completely absurd. But, in fact, that is the former college co-ed turned porn actress's real name. Note to lingerie companies: hurry up mounting your Leathers and Lace ad campaigns.
In movies and comics aptronyms are entertaining, tongue in cheek character references. But politics is a supposed to be serious business and not funny at all. Anthony Weiner is no Superman although I suspect many Americans might agree that in this case, the name fits. Weiner is a dick.