Friday, June 4, 2010

A spirited aptonym

By golly, I've found yet another brilliant aptonym--this in the world of wine and food blogging. I speak of Mr. Rick Bakas. Rick is the social media director at St. Supery Winery in the Napa Valley. He's been in branding and marketing for years, and recently he's become something of a social media celebrity. His book "Quick Bites: 75 Savory Tips for Social Media Success" is due out at the end of this month.

As some readers of this blog know, I'm particularly obsessed with the phenomenon of nominative determinism, also known as the "aptonym." This is when a person's name matches their personality or career choice. For example, Dennis Rodman's father, a known philanderer who married four times and had 27 children, is named Philander Rodman. (I don't know why, but that's still my favorite.) There are also many examples of doctors named Doctor, dentists named Tooth, attorneys called Sue, and so on.

Bacchus is the name of the Roman God of Wine. Rick notes on his blog that his family name was originally spelled that way, but his great-grandfather changed it to Bakas so that it would sound more American. The Greeks called this god Dionysus.

I've been following Rick on Twitter for some time now, enjoying his tweets about food, wine and social media commentary. For someone in a field known for its pleasure and relaxation, he seems to have the energy of ten people or more--continually posting videos, photos and other tidbits that pour out of him like an endless, bottomless jug. In Greek and Cretian myth, Dionysus (Bacchus) was half mortal and half god. The Greeks said he was fathered by none other than Zeus.

I got in touch with Rick on Twitter and asked him to comment. Did he get into wine because of his name? Had he ever thought of himself as a Roman god? He was surprised by the request but gamely responded with the following email:

"I didn’t get into the wine biz because of my name, it just happened. I was bit by the wine bug when I turned 21. That year, my parents opened a 1985 Stag’s Leap Cask 23 during the holidays. That was the first wine I had that had quality and age on it. The light bulb went off and I was hooked. Before that, any alcohol I drank came out of a hose connected to a keg in college.
 So I subscribed to every wine publication I could get my hands on and started learning and tasting everything. That led to my wine collection, that led to getting a job as a wine sales rep. Eventually I became a wine broker. 

If I had to recreate the path I’ve taken, I probably couldn’t reproduce it. It’s been a string of happy occurrences. As for my last name, it was actually spelled, 'Bacchus' but when my great-grandparents came to the U.S. In 1912 they Americanized the spelling (which is a bummer). They changed the spelling from Bacchus to Bakas."

He attached this--his version of the family crest:
Rick encouraged me to get in touch with Emily Wines, who is the Master Sommelier at Fifth Floor restaurant in San Francisco. That is truly the consummate definition of an aptonym par excellence. Emily Wines, and her job is to choose and serve... well, um... wines! Unfortunately I didn't hear back from Emily by press time, but all we can do is marvel at the total aptness of her name from afar.

Update!! We have heard from Emily Wines. She sends the following missive about her truly apt-o-nym:

"My name always comes up in my business. My getting into wine was a coincidence rather than being influenced by my name. Sometimes I think it opened doors as people remembered it though. People always comment on my name. It would seem that my name is Emily 'yes that really is her name' Wines. I usually joke about how if my last name were 'Beers,' I would be in a different career. I first got interested in wine by working in restaurants. As a server, I felt that if I knew more about what I was selling I would be a better waitress. Which is true -- however, as I started reading and exploring I got really hooked on the stories and cultures that inform wine as well as the beverage itself. I began doing side work in the restaurant to learn more which eventually led me to become a sommelier. I am the only person in my family in the wine business. In fact, growing up, my family rarely even drank wine! That has changed now, thanks to me. Now I can't get them off the stuff."

We raise a glass to both Emily and Rick.


Matt K said...

Cool now when do we get to hear your story SUNSHINE???

Sunshine said...

The whole story? Hoo boy. How about this shortened version at the end of my very first "aptonym" post: