This week, let's do some unusual eponyms – persons' names which have become words.
to burke – to murder by suffocation (or another way that leaves the body intact) to obtain a body to be sold for dissection. hence, to quietly kill, to suppress or dispose of: to burke a parliamentary question
After William Burke, of 1800's Edinburgh, who ran a lucrative business servicing the local medical students in this gruesome manner. His business ended with the smothering of one Mary Petersen, an eighteen-year-old woman of the streets who had been on intimate terms with some of the anatomy students to whom her body was assigned. This burst the bubble. Ironically, after Burke was led to the gallows, his body was dissected at a public lecture.
When a landowner in County Mayo, Ireland refused to lower rents after two years of bad potato crops, his tenant-farmers banded together and ostracized him. The local priest, who apparently helped organize that group-effort, anticipated that the peasantry would not understand the word "ostracize". He substituted the name of the reviled landowner, and his term quickly was picked up as a word for ostracizing.
The landowner's name? Captain Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897).
Here's an obscure word for you, tsuwm. Not one you'll often have opportunity to use.
ucalegon - a neighbor whose house in on fire One source says that in ancient greek, "ucalegon" literally means Mr. What-Me-Worry?
Ucalegon was a Trojan elder at the siege of Troy. The Aeneid reveals that his house was next door to Aeneas', and was consumed by the flames when Troy was sacked. "I was roused from my sleep. Already Deiphobus' fine house had collapsed, no match for the power of the fire-god; already Ucalegon's next door was ablaze."
This looks like effutiation to me; and you should capitalize Ucalegon to use it eponymously, just as you'd put "He's a regular Einstein," or "Don't go all Freudian on me."
I'd also note that this is Yet Another Amazing Coincidence, as Ucalegon is juxtaposed with ultroneous (which (if you're following along at home) is today's WWFTD) in Norman Schur's 2000 Most Obscure Words.
heisenbug - computer programming (software): a software bug that disappers or behaves differently when you try to examine or fix it. For example, the use of a debugger sometimes alters a program's operating environment significantly, and thus change the bug's behavior.
This word is a play on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (physics): the act of measuring a particle (e.g., a photon of light off it) also affects the particle. Programmers also speak of Bohr bugs (repeatable bugs) and mandelbugs (bugs that behave in chaotic, seemingly random manner).
Contrast schroedinbug: a bug that doesn't manifest until someone reading code or using it in an unusual way notices that it never should have worked, at which point the program promptly stops working for everybody until fixed. from the Schroedinger's Cat thought-experiment in quantum physics
Murphy game – Any of various confidence games often having the services of a prostitute as a lure (see further note below). The identity of the original Mr. or Ms. Murphy is unknown
quote:Now I should probably tell the story about oldest con games in the world: the notorious "Murphy game." I’m walking through Times Square when a skinny guy comes up and whispers in my ear, "You lookin’ for a girl?" There followed a quick negotiation in which he folded my two $20 bills and told me he would arrange everything with the lovely young lady in question, and then meet me. A half-hour later, my bud came in and told me sadly that the woman was nowhere to be found, so he was going to give me my money back. He handed me the folded-up Times and disappeared into the night.
No matter how many ways I unfolded the newspaper, the bills were gone, and I was left with a learning experience, not least of which was: don’t put your money (or your faith) in a newspaper. They fold; they break your heart. - New York Observer, April 20, 2003
My understanding (contrary to the dictionaries) is that the murphy game need not involve switching an envelope of cash for one stuffed with worthless paper (or something of the like, as above). The term includes, for example, a scam where the lady poses as a woman of virtue. At the very moment she and victim are in a compromising position, a burly middle-aged man walks in, irately clames to be the lady's father, asserts that she is in fact underage – but is eventually persuaded to accept a cash settlment to assuage his moral indignation.