He studied Philosophy and English at Clark and Wesleyan universities, graduating with a B.A. in 1985. In 1990 he entered the Linguistics Department at Harvard University. His thesis topic was "Reconstructions in Proto-Oceanic," for which he was granted a Master's degree. He continued as a Doctoral Candidate in that department, studying Indo-European Comparative Historical Linguistics. His dissertation topic was "The Syntax of Negation in the Anatolian Languages."
He is the founder and president of Nomenon, which evolved from Whatchamacallit, Inc., a naming consultancy of which he was chairman and founder. He has served as a naming consultant to companies including IBM, General Motors, Dell Computers, Reebok, Simon & Schuster, Wang, Eastman Kodak, American Express, Chevron, and ABC-TV, among many others. He has appeared in many national and international broadcast and print media reports on names and the naming industry. These include appearances on CNN, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, and National Public Radio; and in publications including US News and World Report, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe, among others. He has lectured on the topic at Harvard University, Boston University, Golden Gate University, and elsewhere. He has also provided expert witness testimony in legal cases involving naming and trademark law.
Sam has sailed competitively and professionally, and previously served on the board of trustees of the International Yacht Restoration School. He is currently rebuilding a Herreshoff racing sloop constructed in 1905. His best time for a New York Times crossword puzzle is eight minutes, twelve seconds. His favorite word is 'sesquipedalianism.' He is currently learning to surf. He lives in Newport, Rhode Island.