When Horst met Doris

Alps - Hiking Couple takes break in mountains

Nomen est omen, the Latin saying goes. Is it really true that your name tells people more about you than you’d suspect? And what the heck does all of this have to do with Horst and Doris?

The authors of Freakonomics have linked baby names from US-American registry files with the average amount of years the respective mothers have spent in further and higher education. They maintain that your first name reveals your social origin (read more here).

But then there are names that burden their bearers not only as – supposed – telltale tokens of their social background but also as derisive designations, thus having acquired their own separate little picturesque lives as nouns. For example, Horst may be a nice (likely middle-aged) guy in German, but if used in a certain context (Du Horst!), the name is a way of expressing one’s displeasure at the other person’s foolishness. (Even more emphasis can be added by referring to someone as a Vollhorst.) The British, and apparently also US-American, equivalent would be ‘Doris’, as evidenced in a quote from the TV series Life of Crime, ‘You’re not even a constable. You’re a Doris. A plonk.’ (Incidentally, ‘plonk’ in British English may also refer to ‘cheap wine’, Plörre in German.)

I’m sure there are more examples of proper names being used in a derogatory manner in other English-speaking countries, and I’d love to hear from you, dear natives of those lands – do make avid use of the ‘Comment’ section below.

I wonder, though, why it’s a male name in German and a female name in English. Are there more male twonks in Germany and more female wallies in England? Or is it just a matter of Horst & Doris’ respective life partners being less tolerant than their counterparts? This is a mystery we’ll never solve. One mystery that can be solved, however, is that of the guy living in the roof gutter. Read more next week …

The Pommes Buddha says: Don’t put the saddle on the wrong Horst.

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