Loved Jennifer Senior's mordant cover story, "How to Be Happy," in the July 17 New York magazine. In it, she picks the brains of the guy who designed the Authentic Happiness Index; considers the success of Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness (if there were a Netboox, this title would be in my queue); and talks to happiness dissenters such as Barbara Held, the author of Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching, which was published just after 9/11. Senior missed an opportunity, though, in talking about one of the eminences grises of HappyThink: University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, who coined the term "positive psychology." In German, "Seligman" literally means "happy man."
There's a word for this sort of felicitous matchup: aptronym, allegedly coined by Franklin P. Adams, the American newspaper columnist of the 1920s and 1930s. (Senior's article includes another aptronym: Samuel Smiles, the Scot who published the first self-help book--Self-Help--in 1859.) The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen called them "namephreaks": Cardinal Sin of Manila, a veterinarian named Fowler, the writer Francine Prose, and--one of Caen's favorites--a Shirley Nice who taught a class on "How to Handle People with Tact and Skill."
As Timothy Noah wrote in Slate back in April, Tony Snow became an ex officio aptronym when he took on the job of Bush White House press spokesman--snow jobs being part of the job description. Noah, by the way, keeps a running tab in his Aptronym Yellow Pages, which he updates occasionally with posts such as this list of apt lawyers' names. If you know of some he missed, please pass them along to me.