In my post about naming diseases I referred to the use of eponyms. In previous articles I have looked at bowdlerise, morphine and Luddite. This week I wanted to look at a dozen of my favourites:
- Candido Jacuzzi invented the whirlpool bath for his son who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.
- The dinner jacket for semiformal evening dress takes its name from the Tuxedo Park Country Club, New York.
- The Greek god Pan, who could cause sudden, contagious fear in people and animals through the power of his voice, gives us the word panic.
- Jean Nicot (1530-1600), the French ambassador to Portugal, who promoted smoking by sending tobacco seeds and leaves to France in the mid 16th century gives us nicotine, the colourless, oily, water-soluble, highly toxic, liquid alkaloid.
- Decibel is a strange one. It was coined by telephone engineers. It was first called “bel” after Alexander Graham Bell. The deci comes from the Latin word for ten.
- Frenchman Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), Controller-General of Finances under Louis XV, loved to tax his fellow citizens. The dark image outlined against a lighter background is said to refer the victims of his taxes were reduced to mere shadows of themselves.
- Sam Maverick (1803-1870), a Texas politician and rancher who refused to brand his cattle, gives us the word for a non-conformist.
- Zanni from the Commedia dell’arte is a clown who wears a mask with a long, downward curving beak in the Italian. This gives the word zany.
- Jumbo, a 62 ton African elephant exhibited at London Zoo in the 19th century, give us the word for extremely large.
- Mr. Boffin, a character from Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, gives us the word for an egghead.
- Syphilis, the infectious venereal disease, is from a 16th century poem by Veronese doctor Girolamo Fracastoro (1483-1553), which tells the tale of the shepherd Syphilus, said to be the first sufferer of the disease.
- A photographer in the film La Dolce Vita, Paparazzo gives us the name for the camera-wielding celebrity hunters.