Tuesday 31 January 2012

Sandwiches, Silhouettes & Sideburns

Did you know that the sandwich is named after the Earl of Sandwich?  Or did you know that a silhouette is named after Etienne de Silhouette, the French Controller General of Finance, whose victims of his taxes became shadows of themselves?  Or did you know that sideburns are named after the American General Burnside who made the facial hair popular?  Our language is full of eponyms, nouns named after people, and yet often we don't even know it.  The word marathon is derived from the city of Marathon, Greece where in 490 BC a messenger ran 150 miles within two days to alert the Greeks that the enemy Persians were coming, thereby securing them a victory.  When we refer to something as being jumbo in size, we refer to Jumbo the Elephant, who participated in the Barnum and Bailey circus as one of the biggest animals in captivity.  If bedlam (a corruption of Bethlehem) breaks loose, it means chaos reigns; St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital in London, England was a mental institution.  The drink bourbon is named after Bourbon County in Kentucky where the drink was a common beverage.  Girls wear leotards today, traced back to the acrobat Jules Leotard who also wore them.  The form of captial punishment in France where prisoners were decapitated is called the guillotine, after Joseph Guillotin, the French physician who invented it.  When we say something is ritzy, we mean that it is posh or hoity toity, named after the Ritz Hotel established by Swiss hotelier Monsieur Ritz.  An atlas is named after the Greek god Atlas who supposedly held the earth and the heavens on his shoulders.  A quisling is a traitor and can be traced back to the Second World War when Norwegian Vidkun Abraham Quisling collaborated with the Nazis who occupied Norway.  Etymology, the study of the history of words, can be a fascinating subject.

For more eponyms, visit www.alphadictionary.com/articles/eponyms.

Photo courtesy www.wordpress.com.

Image courtesy www.google.ca.

No comments:

Post a Comment