Since the New York Times is unwilling to stoop this low, it falls to me to express the regret every patriotic American must feel that when the Department of Education got around to assigning a study on “Educator Sexual Misconduct”—a report in which more than 40 percent of all student-identified wrongdoers were found to be women, their targets predominantly male—it gave the job to a scholar named “Shakeshaft.”
The eerie tendency for people’s names to express or somehow comment—often inappropriately—upon their chosen professions is a lifelong interest of mine. At the age of 11, I wrote Mary Ann Madden, proprietor of the New York Magazine Competition, to suggest a contest identifying people with such names. I forget the examples I cited and also the reason Madden gave when she wrote me back saying the idea wouldn’t really work for New York. But I remember, verbatim, Madden’s postscript: “Zoltan Ovary is a gynecologist in Manhattan. Honest Injun.”
This was 1969, the year of Portnoy’s Complaint and the American release of I Am Curious (Yellow). Still, the sexual revolution had not progressed to the point where an 11 year-old boy—even (if I may say so) an unusually bright one—could be expected to know what a gynecologist was. My mother set me straight—she may also have clarified my fuzzy understanding of what an ovary was—and I savored the thrill of being mistaken for an adult. I hasten to absolve Ms. Madden (who ended up running the New York Magazine Competition for an additional 31 years, retiring in 2000) of any suspicion that she engaged, however inadvertently, in Columnist Sexual Misconduct. Our postal liaison left no discernible psychological damage, and today some of my best friends are gynecologists.
In homage to Ms. Madden (and also, after a fashion, to Dr. Shakeshaft), I invite readers to submit real names that express or comment on the bearer’s occupation. Please send entries (under the subject heading, “name contest,” and with proper means of verification) to email@example.com. All entries must be received by noon EST on Dec. 14.