Aptly Named Cases: Aptonyms!

March 7th, 2013

Aaron Zelinsky has a cute essay in the Michigan Law Review First Impressions about Aptly Named Cases. Think of Loving v. Virginia. Isn’t that just the perfect name to remember that case?

Here is the abstract:

The field of law and literature ranges wide. Scholars use Shakespeare to illuminate issues of justice, Toni Morrison to construe family law, and Harry Potter to explain the law of nations. But an important subset of this field has been hitherto neglected: the study of the names of laws’ protagonists — law and onomastics.

This Essay takes the first step into this promising area by identifying a previously unexplored category of cases, which it dubs legal aptonyms. Aptonyms – literally “apt names” – are those proper names that are “regarded as (humorously) appropriate to a person’s profession or personal characteristics.” Think of Shakespeare’s quick-tempered Prince Hotspur, Dickens’s acerbic Mrs. Sowerberry, or J.K. Rowling’s pernicious Draco Malfoy. But for law. This Essay provides a brief history of aptonyms, defines the legal aptonym, and provides several examples, ranging from Loving v. Virginia to Schmuck v. United States.