Shandy-Lack revisited

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Jun 11 02:32:57 UTC 2004

You folks doubtless remember the discussion a year or so ago of the Shandy-Lack Theory of Onomastic Determinism, a hypothesis that a person's life is determined by his or her name, first proposed by Walter Shandy in the 18th century novel Tristram Shandy, and confirmed by the research of David Lack, a British ornithologist, who observed a striking number of ornithologists (other than himself) whose name was the name of a bird or of a part of a bird.

Confirming evidence comes from a recent article in Discover magazine, which cites a marine biologist named Herring.  But counter-evidence is found in the NYTimes of June 2,  2004, section A, p. 1, col. 3 and continued on p. A15, which profiles Stephanie Vowell, who obviously should be a philologist, but is in fact a stripper in a Los Vegas club.  However, she evidently  realizes that she is nearing the end of her career as a stripper, and needs to make plans for the rest of her life, so perhaps philology will be her second career.  If she should enroll in a linguistics program near you, you may recognize her as "a small-town Midwesterner, a self-described "big fake blond" who stands 6-foot-3 in her 7 1/2 inch heels with a fake blond ponytail, fake eyelashes, fake green eyes, a fake tan and fake breasts."  If still in doubt, try calling "hey, Trixie" and see if she responds.

In any event, until we see where Ms Vowell goes when she leaves Vegas, the Shandy-Lack Theory probably should be conceded to be controversial.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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