"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 05/19/13

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Top 30 Common English Words That Are Derived from Names of People (IV)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Top 30 Common English Words That Are Derived from Names of People (I)
Top 30 Common English Words That Are Derived from Names of People (II)
Top 30 Common English Words That Are Derived from Names of People (III)

21. Pasteurize. My scientist readers said they would not forgive me if I fail to mention this word in my list. Well, even people who aren’t medical scientists know that "pasteurize" means to boil food, water, etc. in order to kill the bacteria in them. The process of doing that is called pasteurization.  The more common alternatives to “pasteurize” and “pasteurization” are “sterilize” and “sterilization.” Pasteurize is derived from Louise Pasteur (1822-95), the French chemist and microbiologist who discovered that it is bacteria that cause food, milk, wine, etc. to ferment. He recommended sterilization to reduce the risk of getting sick from fermented food.
Louise Pasteur
Louise Pasteur

22. Pavlovian. This word is often used as an adjective to mean predictable, unthinking, or knee-jerk reaction, as in: "the politician gave pavlovian answers to journalists’ questions during the news conference." The word owes its provenance to Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936), a Russian physiologist and Nobel laureate “who discovered that the repetition of a stimulus conditions a predictable response pattern.” Pavlov famously conducted an experiment with a dog to test knee-jerk reflex action. He trained the dog to salivate when he rang a bell by making it relate the sound of a bell with the presence of food. So to be “pavlovian” is to do something automatically without thinking.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

23. Quisling. This word was brought to the mainstream of Nigerian English lexicon from the early to the mid-1990s by Afenifere, the Yoruba political pressure group that was popular in southwest Nigeria until the late 2000s. The group described its erstwhile activists who served in the military regime of General Sani Abacha as “quislings.” A quisling is a collaborator with an enemy. In other words, he is a traitor, a betrayer. It is derived from Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Quisling  (1887–1945), a Norwegian politician who collaborated with the Nazis who took over Norway during World War II. He served as “Minister-President” during the three-year conquest of his country by the Nazis. After the defeat of the Nazis, Quisling was tried, found guilty of treason, and executed by firing squad.
Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Quisling
Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Quisling

Quisling as a synonym for “traitor” entered English vocabulary in 1940 while Vidkun Quisling was still alive. It was first used by The Times, the conservative British newspaper famous for inventing the popular Times New Roman typeface. In an April 19, 1940 editorial titled “Quislings Everywhere,” The Times wrote: “To writers, the word Quisling is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for traitor... they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters. Aurally it contrives to suggest something at once slippery and tortuous.”

A verb form of quisling, “quisle,” emerged but it was short-lived; it didn’t catch on. But other derivatives of the word have survived. A good example is quislingism, which a dictionary defines as the “act of cooperating traitorously with an enemy that is occupying your country.”

24. Quixotic. This word that means “foolishly idealistic” or unrealistic is traceable to Don Quixote, “the hero of novel Don Quixote de la Mancha by Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616).” Since Quixote is only the name of a fictional character, it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the eponyms in this list, but I thought I would include it nonetheless.

25. Rachmanism.  I admit that this is not a common word. It is a Briticism, that is, it is a uniquely British English expression that is absent in all other varieties of English.  Nonetheless, it has an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, and I think Nigerians really need it to give expression to what they suffer in the hands of ruthless landlords. The word means the “unscrupulous mistreatment of tenants.”  It is derived from Peter Rachman (1920-1962), a scandalously dishonest Polish Jew who immigrated to London and became a landlord in the 1950s. He was notorious for arbitrarily increasing rent, kicking out sitting tenants who had legal protection against sharp, sudden increases in rent, and replacing them with new tenants who had no legal protection against rent increases. Most of the people he exploited were black immigrants from the Caribbean Islands.
Peter Rachman
Peter Rachman

26. Ritzy. This word means fashionable, elegant, or posh. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “impressively or ostentatiously fancy or stylish.” The word originates from the Ritz hotels, which were founded by Swish hotel proprietor César Ritz who lived from 1850 to 1918. Over the years, ritzy has also come to mean snobbish.
César Ritz
César Ritz 

27. Sadism. We all know this word to mean deriving pleasure from causing pain to others. A person who derives pleasure from other people’s pain is called a sadist. The adjectival form of sadism is sadistic. The word is derived from Donatien Alphonse Francois Marquis de Sade who lived from 1740 to 1814. Sade was a French revolutionary, philosopher, soldier, and sexual deviant who wrote books gleefully detailing how he derived sexual pleasure from inflicting pain on little girls in his village. He spent most of his life in French prisons from where he wrote many more books about sex and violence.
Donatien Alphonse Francois Marquis de Sade
Donatien Alphonse Francois Marquis de Sade

The opposite of sadism is masochism, which means the act of deriving pleasure from inflicting pain on oneself. One who practices masochism is a masochist. The word is derived from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, an Austrian journalist and writer.
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

 In his little book titled The Trouble with Nigeria, the late Chinua Achebe artfully deployed this word. He wrote: “Only a masochist with an exuberant taste for self-violence will pick Nigeria for a holiday.” Ouch!

28. Silhouette. Dictionaries define this word as the outline of an object as cast by its shadow. It is derived from Étienne de Silhouette who lived from 1709 to 1767. Silhouette was the equivalent of the minister of finance in France, and he was infamous for his anti-people economic policies that reduced people to a shadow of themselves, much like all Nigerian finance ministers have done. At first, "silhouette" became associated with belt-tightening, that is, a reduction of spending. It later came to be associated with portraiture because French people who couldn’t afford expensive paintings or sculpture, thanks to Silhouette’s harsh economic policies, simply drew a profile of their shadows on black papers and called it “silhouette.”

29. Spoonerism. This is a type of slip of the tongue or speech impediment “in which the first letters of two adjacent or close words are switched, as 'I hissed your mystery class'” instead of “I missed your history class.” It is traced to Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) identified as an Anglican clergyman and educator, dean who suffered from a speech defect that caused him to unintentionally mix up his consonants. In modern usage, spoonerisms are intentional and seek to achieve comical effects.
Reverend William Archibald Spooner
Reverend William Archibald Spooner

30. Teddy.  This is what Alphadictionary wrote about this word: “Short for teddy bear, a soft, stuffed toy in the shape of a bear. Named for Teddy, the nickname of President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), once depicted in a famous cartoon sparing the life of a bear cub.”

Concluded

Challenge
What current names do you predict will become common English words in dictionaries in the next 50 to 100 years? I'd like to read your thoughts. My top pick is “Bushism,” “Bushist,” etc. after former President George W. Bush. These words are also in circulation in informal speech.

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