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Particle Physics and Pony Fiction Experimentalist

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What’s in a pony’s name? · 9:19pm Jul 25th, 2017

Any readers of the New Scientist Feedback column will likely be familiar with the concept of Nominative Determinism—the idea that some authors, consciously or not, gravitate to a professional area which in some way matches their name. While the academic value of this theory is limited—although apparently some studies have done enough robust analysis to conclude that this is a genuine effect, and not just the result of the selective attention of editors and column writers—its main use is the entertainment value of the samples.

The original examples were: a paper in the British Journal of Urology by Splatt and Weedon, Pole Positions – The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman, and London Under London – A Subterranean Guide, by Richard Trench. This was soon followed by The Chemistry of the Metallic Elements by David Steele, How to find Australian Gemstones by Doug Stone, Heat Transfer at Low Temperatures by W. Frost, and others.

I remember first reading about this back in the 1990s when, as a science-obsessed teenager, I read the magazine cover to cover. More recently I was interested to note that the Wikipedia article on the subject attributes the name Nominative Determinism to those early columns.

And what of in Equestria? You could conclude that nominative determinism is an even more powerful effect there, given the correlation of pony names to defining characteristics. It would be a bit of a coincidence if Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon’s names should so perfectly match their cutie marks by chance, (although not quite as puzzling as the logic behind the names of DT’s parents). Cutie marks ensure that ponies are very conscious of the business of finding their special talent, which perhaps makes them more inclined to follow their names in the quest to discover who they are. Of course there is no shortage of alternative fan theories for this, including some very sophisticated attempts to characterise the forces fixing the fate of Equestria.

It would seem to be a culturally dependent effect, and the degree to which a pony’s name fixes their destiny depends on what trot of life they come from. This makes sense—it is easy to imagine that Diamond Tiara’s entire life was mapped out for her by her mother before she was even born.

A few further observations and speculations:

Mayor Mare’s name does seem such a convenient justification for her position that you wonder if she changed it by deed poll before running for office?

When Starswirl the Bearded (we presume he acquired the second part of his name later in life, but who knows?) first asked Luna and Celestia to lower the moon and raise the sun, they instinctively knew which one them had to pick which astronomical body. What upset might have happened to the Celestial order, if in the confusion of the time, Celestia has chosen to lower the moon, leaving her sister to pick up the sun?

Celestia’s star students: Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer have names depicting remarkably similar optical effects. You could add Twinkleshine to this list, and then it is understandable that Starlight Glimmer would feel miffed at being excluded. Moon Dancer does sound like she should really spend her nights frolicking out in the moonlight (perhaps she does).

And Derpy Hooves / Ditzy Doo / Bubbly Mare / Muffins is clearly overtalented.


Comments ( 8 )

I've always assumed that ponies get a chance to change their names when their cutie mark emerges, and indeed in 'Perfect Pair' it is stated that Mrs Cake changed her name at some point which is not necessarily based on her getting married.

I damn near laughed myself sick at British Journal of Urology by Splatt and Weedon! :pinkiehappy:

Im sure my mother had no idea when she named me that digging back through last thousand years or so of etymology, the deepest roots I can find for my RL name are roughly Hidden Island of Advanced Secret Weapons. :pinkiecrazy:

My last name is Overstreet. I am neither a road construction worker nor a sign-hanger.

"So...." Twilight eyed the clean-cut stallion standing at the castle entrance. "You just need to stay here for a few days."

"Yes, Princess Twilight." He nodded with a broad smile. "My landlord at my previous residence had an unfortunate accident, and I had to move, so I thought I'd stay here."

"And by unfortunate accident, you mean..." Twilight stretched it out, hoping not to hear what she expected.

"He was moving a box of knives into the basement and fell down the stairs," explained the stallion. "Into a chipper-shredder, over next door to the Griffon Butcher establishment, and... Well, it was messy."

"Oh." Twilight bit her bottom lip, which did not help because it bled a little and gave her a bad mental image. "I don't know, Mister Pyscho Killer. I think we're full up."

My last name is Unger. I have no plans to visit Hungary ever.

I've always imagined some sort of fortune telling ritual that is how ponies traditionally name their children. Let destiny handle it, just like the cutie marks.

Your loss. Genuine Hungarian goulash is fantastic.

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