A New Dictionary of Eponyms
Morton S. Freeman
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Do you approve of censoring the works of great writers? Some might contend that to bowdlerize a great writer's work would be to diminish its overall quality. Others, like Thomas Bowdler, whose eraser danced over every Shakespeare play, would argue that all modest people should be able to read a great work without blushing. For attacking the classics, Mr. Bowdler has been immortalized as the world's best-known, self-appointed literary censor. And because of his efforts the term bowdlerize has become eponymous with his name. Alternatively, the word bikini--defined as a two-piece bathing suit for women--has been a linguistic mystery since 1947 when these suits were first seen on the beaches of the French Riviera, a year after the United States began testing atom bombs on the Bikini atoll of the Marshall Islands. Some shocked people said that the impact of the scanty swimsuit on male beach loungers was like the devastating effect of the atomic bomb. Whoosh! A simpler and more credible notion is that the daring swimsuits resembled the attire worn by women on the Bikini atoll.
Created about a century ago, the term eponym is itself a coinage from two Greek words, epi, "on" or "upon," and onama, "a name." But its broadened meaning, as dictionaries set it out, refers to a word derived from a proper name. For instance, Salisbury steak--a popular diner menu item created from common hamburger and dressed up with brown gravy to make it more appealing--is named for James H. Salisbury, an English physician who promoted a diet of ground beef.
A Dictionary of Eponyms explores the origins of hundreds of these everyday words from Argyle socks to zeppelins. Written in an entertaining and anecdotal style, and with a foreword by Edwin Newman, the book includes a brief biography of the individual whose name became associated with an item or concept as well as information on how and when the name entered the language.
If you've ever wondered just where terms like cardigan sweater, pamphlet, and robot come from, Morton Freeman does more than simply define them--he brings them to life.
name, first mentioned in print in 1912, it became a standard luncheon item, served from a chafing dish with rice or on a pastry shell. CHIMERIC, CHIMERICAL In today's language the adjective chimeric, or chimerical, means visionary, fantastic, unreal, or wildly improbable. The word stems from a mythological story of a she-monster named Chimera. This fire-breathing monster was represented as spewing flames and usually as having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a dragon's tail. Chimera's doom
raising water. Although the lever had been in use long before Archimedes, he worked out the theoretical mathematical principles of its use. He designed the pulley and the windlass, but is best remembered for his work with hydrostatics. His unforgettable cry "Eureka" has made him famous ever since. But it wasn't the cry, it was what he deduced: the Archimedes' principle of specific gravity. His remarkable discovery arose because Hieron, King of Syracuse in Sicily, wished to determine whether a
guilty, and sentenced to death. The presiding judge was a hanging judge who took no chances on becoming a hanged judge. He sentenced Patrick MacGregor (Gilderoy's real name) to be hanged higher than the others. The legal axiom then was, the greater the crime, the higher the gallows. Gilderoy's gibbet from ground to pinnacle was thirty feet high. Thousands came to Gallowlee.i near Edinburgh, to see Gilderoy hanging in the breeze. His corpse, moving to and fro with the wind, remained on exhibition
Pheidippides had run to Sparta and back to seek help against the Persians, and, without sufficient rest, raced some twenty-six miles to Athens and gasped out the news: "Rejoice—we conquer," and fell dead. When the Olympic games were revived for the first time in 1896, a modern "marathon" was staged, covering 26 miles and 385 yards, to commemorate the famous run from Marathon to Athens. Appropriately, the victor was a Greek. MARCONIGRAM, MARCONIGRAPH The great electrical engineer and inventor
required all noblemen to command a platoon in Martinet's regiment before purchasing their own command in an infantry regiment. Because of Martinet's disciplined training program, France was the first to have a professional national army on the continent. Previously, French soldiers, as well as those from other lands, were a hodgepodge of free-lance mercenaries. Martinet insisted that his men obey standardized methods of drill. He taught them how to advance when under fire, and he introduced the