Today’s topic: eponymies | PostIndependent.com
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Today’s topic: eponymies

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See It
ALL |

What in the world is an eponymy? It is a word which is derived from its association with someone’s name. The best-known example is “sandwich”, a creation of the Earl of Sandwich. In an uncharacteristic departure from controversial issues, I have chosen eponymies as the subject for today’s column. Excluded from the list are plants named after horticulturists (dahlia, magnolia, zinnia, etc.), scientific units of measurement, particularly in the electrical field, (ampere, hertz, volt, watt, etc.), and structures or devices using the names of their designers as adjectives, such as Eiffel tower, Ferris wheel, and Gatling gun. Following are 23 eponymies which I have come across.

Boycott: from Capt. Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), an English land manager in County Mayo, Ireland, from whom his neighbors refused to purchase any of his produce in retaliation for his oppressive practices over his tenants.

Chauvinism: from Nicolas Chauvin ( ? ), a multiply-wounded soldier in Napoleon’s army, known for his zealous patriotism and blind militarism.



Caesarian: after Julius Caesar (102-44 BC), who was born in accordance with the Roman custom of surgically removing the fetus from a mother who had died in labor.

Cardigan: after James Thomas Brudnell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868), commander of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War in 1854, who replaced the pullover style sweaters for his troops with an open buttoned design.



Draconian: from a late 7th Century BC Athenian lawmaker known for the severity of his code, which prescribed death for nearly all offenses.

Frisbee: from Mrs. Frisbie’s Bakery in New Haven Connecticut, whose metal pie plates Yale University students started hurling in the 1930s. The spelling was changed by Wham-o, when it started marketing their plastic version.

Hobson’s Choice: after Thomas Hobson (1544-1631) of Cambridge, England, a renter of horses, who’s patron’s choice of a horse was the one nearest to the stable door.

Hooker: the name given to the denizens of the brothels that “Fighting Joe” Hooker (1814-1879), one of Lincoln’s many unsuccessful Civil War generals, set up outside Washington, D.C. for his troops.

Levi: after Levi Strauss (1829-1902) from Bavaria, who made a fortune in the California Gold Rush, selling his durable jeans to the miners.

Lynch: after Charles Lynch (1736-1796), a Virginia planter, who’s extreme extralegal practice of trial and execution of Tories was terminated by passage of what was called the “anti-Lynch” law.

Mackintosh: after Charles Macintosh (1766-1843), inventor of a process of applying India rubber to cloth raincoats to make them waterproof.

Macadam: after John Loudon Macadam (1756-1836), Scottish inventor of broken stone road surfacing.

Martinet: after Jean Martinet (?-1672), a stern French drillmaster for Louis XIV.

Maverick: after Samuel Maverick (1803-1870), a Texas pioneer who went against standard practice by refusing to brand his cattle.

Ponzi scheme: after Carlo (Charles) Ponzi, a 1903 Italian immigrant who swindled fellow immigrants.

Quisling: after Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), a pro-Nazi Norwegian traitor who collaborated with the Germans and became their puppet head of state.

Sadism: after the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), a French writer noted for his perverted sexual activities.

Sandwich: after John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who used two slices of bread to hold his sliced meat, so he wouldn’t have to interrupt his addiction to gambling while eating.

Sideburns: from Ambrose Burnside (1824-81), another of Lincoln’s failed Civil War generals, for the prominent hair style extending down his cheeks.

Shrapnel: after Harry Shrapnel (1761-1842), a British army officer who invented fragmenting artillery shells.

Silhouette: after Etienne de Silhouette (1700-1767), a penny-pinching French finance minister, because the process of making that type of portrait was also “on the cheap” compared to painted portraits.

Spoonerism: after Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), an English clergyman at Oxford, who had an unfortunate proclivity for interchanging the beginnings of words.

Van Dyke: from Sir Anthony Van Dyke (1599-1641), a Flemish painter who frequently used in his portrait paintings a style of beard that was popular at the time.

There must be many more eponymies in addition to those above that are not excluded by the restrictions listed in the first paragraph. Perhaps you can think of some. If so, I would appreciate hearing from you at 945-0966.

My next column will be back to controversy.

– Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.


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