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Wondrous Words Wednesday

1. – First up this week is a phrase rather than a single word, so I hope that doesn’t break the rules of the meme too much, although as this then led to me discovering an additional ‘new to me’ word, I think I might just about get away with it! I heard the phrase during a recent episode of the BBC weekly popular satirical television series “Have I Got News For You”.

Image For The Television Programme "Have I Got News For You"

NOMINATIVE DETERMINISM – is the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work that fit their name.

The term was first used in the magazine New Scientist in 1994, after the magazine’s humorous Feedback column noted several studies carried out by researchers with remarkably fitting surnames.

Nominative determinism differs from the related concept aptronym, and its synonyms aptonym, namephreak, and Perfect Fit Last Name, in that it focusses on causality.

APTRONYM – merely means the name is fitting, without saying anything about why it has come to fit.



2. – Two words for the price of one come courtesy of the lovely Tracy, over at ‘Pen And Paper’ in her review of ‘Desert God’ by Wilbur Smith and feature in the first sentence of the book.

Aton blinked his little eyes that were set deep in their rolls of fat, and then raised them from the bao board laid out between them.

Image Of A Bao Board

BAO – is a traditional mancala board game played in most of East Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros, Malawi, as well as some areas of DR Congo and Burundi. It is most popular among the Swahili people of Tanzania and Kenya; the name itself “Bao” is the Swahili word for “board” or “board game”.

MANCALA – is a family of board games played around the world, sometimes called “sowing” games, or “count-and-capture” games, which describes the gameplay. The name is a classification or type of game, rather than any specific game.



… Is An image for the weekly meme Wondrous Words Wednesdaya weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we have encountered in our reading. It is hosted by Kathy, over at ‘BermudaOnion’s Weblog’. You can either stop by and leave a link to your own ‘mystery’ words of the week, or just browse the eclectic mix of words that others have discovered, there is always a great selection.

Don’t forget that Kathy and the rest of us, all love to read your comments  as well, so that we can visit and share your words of the week!


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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • Of course phrases are allowed. I’ve read that people tend to “grow into” their names so Nominative Determinism makes sense to me. I didn’t know bao but have played Mancala before and it’s a lot of fun.

    • Hi Kathy,

      There are so many people out there whose names also match their jobs by coincidence and I hadn’t seriously thought about the difference until the article pointed it out in words of one syllable. Then ‘aptronym’ and ‘aptonym’ also made perfect sense.

      Mancala and Bao are two totally unknown games to me and having gone back and read the complete article, it would appear that although popular in much of the World, the concept never took off in much of Europe, with the possible exception of a few of the Eastern European countries, so that might explain my ignorance.

      Thanks for stopping by and for hosting WWW. I hope that you enjoyed your Christmas and would like to wish you and yours all the best for the New Year 🙂

  • I agree that the concepts from the first do make sense, though I didn’t know the word/phrase or the difference between the two.

    I have a Mancala set in my games cabinet, but didn’t know it had another name!

    I ran across several words in my last book (Dictator by Robert Harris) and one in the Spring issue of the OA. I’ll give you the word and its usage and let you research the definitions. If you don’t already know them, you might easily figure them out from context.

    Casuistry: “Spare me your casuistry, Marcus.”

    Apotheosis: “She was soaked from the rain but did not seem to notice, so engrossed was she in her husband’s apotheosis.”

    Precis: “He had already heard what had happened at the Senate and in the public assembly, but wanted me to recite my precis of the speeches.”

    Glossolalia: “On a raised dais, a large, bearded gentleman murmured a non-stop stream of auctioneer glossolalia into a microphone.”

    The first two were new to me; the latter two I thought I knew from context, but wanted confirmation. Have fun researching! 🙂

    • Hi Kelly,

      You have some great words this time, with ‘precis’ being the only one I know with any certainty.

      ‘Glossolalia’ is a real mouthful to pronounce properly and certainly matches its definition of being “the phenomenon of (apparently) speaking in an unknown language”. I can’t think of a situation when I could drop the word casually into the conversation!

      Thanks for taking part this week, your words were really interesting and I like the concept of having to research them for myself 🙂

  • Thanks for the mention.

    I still like to use my paper dictionaries to look up words but occasionally come across a word that I’m not sure how to pronounce despite the help of the dictionary and so find myself online looking at a dictionary that pronounces the word for me — today’s ‘aptronym’ was one such word.

    Hoping you have a good New Year, that 2017 is kind to you.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I must admit that I have become something of a Google and Wikipedia fiend, despite all my protestations and best efforts to remain paper friendly! It is just so much easier to use and there is so much more information and detail, which just can’t be packed into the printed pages of a dictionary without it being the size and weight of a house!

      I must admit that I was getting well confused between aptronym and aptonym, but then that’s the English language all over, isn’t it?

      I hope that you had a good Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. We shall be here together enjoying a very quiet New Year’s Eve.

      Best Wishes to both of you 🙂

  • Happy New Year, Yvonne!

    About your words:

    I’ve noticed NOMINATIVE DETERMINISM for a while now (years), but didn’t know there was a phrase to describe it. Countless times, I’ve said or at least thought, “perfect name for so and so”. Thank you for providing this phrase! 🙂

    BAO I did not know (until now). I have played MANCALA more than a few times, although not too recently.

    • Hi Suko,

      I can’t recall ever haivng seen a game of Mancala before, although apparently one of our most well known supermarket chains stocks it online, so you learn something new every day! It is manufactured by Gibsons, a company I know quite well, as they also produce some of the jigsaw puzzles I enjoy so much, which makes it even more annoying that I hadn’t noticed it.

      Nominative Determinism is a great phrase, which I heard purely by chance when we were watching the television programme. In fact, it was one of the few times when I didn’t have pen and paper by my side for just such an eventuality, so I had to find the relevant episode of the show online and watch it through to the reference to the phrase – sad I know, but that’s what I’m like!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by, I always appreciate your comments, especially as we haven’t spoken for some time now 🙂

Written by Yvonne