Weekend Word Wrap: eponyms


Some of you might recall the Weekend Word Wrap from some moons ago on malapropisms. A malapropism, of course, is an eponym first and foremost as it takes its name from a person. Okay, in this case a fictitious person, Mrs. Malaprop, from Sheridan's 1775 play, The Rivals, but a person nonetheless.

Most eponyms, however, are usually named after actual people, generally their surnames. Our word algorithm, for instance, comes from the word Algoritmi, which is the Latinization of the 9th century Persian Muslim mathematician, Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi. (Good thing he was a mathematician and not a baseball player. "Now batting,"¦")

The fields of science and medicine are full of eponyms like Petri dish, named for the bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri who invented it in 1877 and Galvanize, named after the Italian scientist Luigi Galvani.

One of my least favorite eponyms is named after Henry Shrapnel, the Englishman who designed the famous artillery shell. I've always thought it was one of the ugliest sounding words in our language.

A more pleasing eponym, at least to my ear, is jumbo, who was actually a 62-ton elephant owned by the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the late 1800s

As always, we'd love to hear some of your favorites (or least favorites). Meanwhile, good old Reader's Digest has a quiz you can take to see how up on your eponyms you are. Check it out.