, Möbius strip
, and Achilles' heel
are all phrases that clearly derive from the names of the persons who described, discovered, or inspired them. But a lot of English words one would never know had originated in proper names. So knowing, however, enriches one's understanding of the word, whether the person behind it is real or imagined, historical or literary, a scientist or a mythical figure. The next time you see a maverick (Samuel Augustus Maverick, Texas cattle rancher) epicure (Epicurus, Greek philosopher) whisk up a tantalizing béchamel sauce (Marquis de Béchamel), don't hector (Trojan hero) him about his sideburns (Union general Ambrose Everett Burnside) or his cardigan (James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of). Just grab a sandwich (also Earl of), your favorite teddy bear (President T. Roosevelt), and a copy of Eugene Ehrlich's wonderfully entertaining What's in a Name
, for a laze under the bougainvillea (Louis Antoine de Bougainville). No Baedeker (German publisher) can recommend an afternoon better spent. --Jane Steinberg
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Ehrlich is the author of at least six other books on language, notably Amo, Amas, Amat and More (LJ 5/1/85). Here he defines some 550 words, ranging from Achilles heel to spoonerisms, that come from names of persons celebrated for their contributions to medicine, science, business, academia, or entertainment. Unlike similar books, this one includes words that originate in the names of mythological and literary characters. Each entry includes the part of speech, related forms, and a short definition as well as lengthy historical background. The entries are entertaining, often ending with a humorous "kick line." This is a great book for the browser, but its reference value is compromised by its lack of indexing. It is one of a small crowd of popular dictionaries of eponyms that have appeared recently, among them Andrew Sholl's Wellingtons, Watts & Windsor Knots (NTC Pub., 1997), David Muschell's What's in the Word?: Origins of Words Dealing with People and Places (McGuinn & McGuire, 1996), Morton Freeman and Edwin Newman's New Dictionary of Eponyms (Oxford Univ., 1997), and Dorothy Auchter's Dictionary of Historical Allusions & Eponyms (LJ 8/98). Auchter's title is probably the best of the bunch.?Paul A. D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME
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