Last week we've seen how an occupation can become a surname. In previous "eponyms" themes we've seen how a person's surname can become a new word.
So in theory a word could combine both steps: a profession becomes a surname, and then a person of that surname gives rise to an eponym. In fact, it's happened surprising often, and this week we'll look at eponyms of that sort.
Our first eponym comes from a Mr. Mercer. A mercer is a cloth merchant, as we saw last week, and by odd coincidence Mr. Mercer's eponym relates to the textile industry.
mercerize – to treat cotton thread with lye, so as to increase its strength, luster and affinity for dye [after John Mercer (1791–1866), British calico printer]
… if you want something with a bit of sheen, look for cotton that has been mercerized. I don't know who Mercer was, but he figured out a dandy way to dip cotton into a bath of lye and make it emerge happy and shiny (I wouldn't but then again, I'm not cotton). Mercerized cotton is strong and slippery and smooth, it can even resemble silk in its sleekness. – Debbie Stoller, Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker
April 11, 2007, 18:57
Masonite is a type of hardboard formed using the Mason method (invented by William H. Mason) by taking wooden chips and blasting them into long fibres using steam and then forming them into boards. (Wikipedia)
Mason = Bricklayer; close, but not as neat a fit as Mr Mercer's...
Not quite as nice a fit as Mr Mercer, however.
April 12, 2007, 08:05
Excellent, Beth! That's one I'd not thought of! Thank you.
We've seen fletcher, an arrowmaker. Today's fletcher-eponym is suitable for figurative use, as in the last quote.
Fletcherize – to masticate [chew] one's food slowly and thoroughly [American health-food fadist Horace Fletcher (1849-1919) advocated a mimimum of 32 chews: "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate." Disciples of "the Great Masticator" included John D. Rockfeller, Henry James, Thomas Edison and John Harvey Kellogg (as in Kellogg cereals).]
A stonking meal in a stonking restaurant. But alas, Sue and I are being taught the chew-chew diet, or Fletcherism, … which compelled diners to bow their heads and chew each mouthful for one minute, until it had liquefied and could be simply absorbed by the mouth. – Times Online, Apr. 12, 2007
… thousands of people in the United States and Europe engaged enthusiastically in the practice in the 1890s, and mothers dutifully exhorted their children to "fletcherize" every bite on their plates. – Bruce Felton, What Were They Thinking?: Really Bad Ideas Throughout History
… one still hears how if women were allowed to vote, only the bad ones would avail themselves of the privilege. This is absolutely the reverse of truth. … the educated womenn vote, and the others do not. … Also fletcherize on this: Judge Ben B. Lindsey, the creator of the Juvenile Court in America, … was elected by a very safe plurality of women. Why? … Women are mothers – actual, vicarious or potential. Ben Lindsey is the friend of the children. – Fra Elbert Hubbard, The American Bible (Elbert Hubbard's Selected Writings, Part 12)
Bonus word: stonking – Brit., colloquial: excellent, amazing; considerable, powerful [from military slang: stonk – to bombard with concentrated artillery fire]This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
April 13, 2007, 07:10
We've seen granger meaning 'a farmer'.
In 1769 James Granger published a history of England, with blank leaves in which the buyer could place his own illustrations of the text. The filling up of a ‘Granger’ became a favorite hobby, and afterwards other books were treated in the same manner. Apparently this became something of a fad in the 1880s, annoying those who faced the books denuded by the vandal's knife. The words Grangerize, Grangerism and Grangerite suddenly popped into the language, only to virtually disappear a few years later.
Grangerize – to illustrate (a book) by adding prints, etc., especially ones cut out of other books
Marcus Varro went up and down The places where old books were sold; He ransacked all the shops in town For pictures new and pictures old. He gave the folk of earth no peace; Snooping around by day and night, He plied the trade in Rome and Greece Of an insatiate Grangerite.
"Pictures!" was evermore his cry – "Pictures of old or recent date," And pictures only would he buy Wherewith to "extra-illustrate." Full many a tome of ancient type And many a manuscript he took, For nary purpose but to swipe Their pictures for some other book.
– Eugene Field, The Love Affairs of Marcus Varro
(For the rest of the poem, see below.)
April 13, 2007, 07:11
While Marcus Varro plied his fad There was not in the shops of Greece A book or pamphlet to be had That was not minus frontispiece. Nor did he hesitate to ply His baleful practices at home; It was not possible to buy A perfect book in all of Rome!
What must the other folk have done – Who, glancing o'er the books they bought, Came soon and suddenly upon The vandalism Varro wrought! How must their cheeks have flamed with red How did their hearts with choler beat! We can imagine what they said – We can imagine, not repeat!
Where are the books that Varro made – The pride of dilettante Rome – With divers portraitures inlaid Swiped from so many another tome? The worms devoured them log ago – O wretched worms! ye should have fed Not on the books "extended" so, But on old Varro's flesh instead.
Alas, that Marcus Varro lives And is a potent factor yet! Alas, that still his practice gives Good men occasion for regret! To yonder bookstall, pri'thee, go, And by the "missing" prints and plates And frontispieces you shall know He lives, and "extra-illustrates"!
April 14, 2007, 13:43
BECQUEREL (Abbr. Bq) The International System unit of radioactivity, equal to one nuclear decay or other nuclear transformation per second. [After Antoine Henri BECQUEREL.] Bec·que·rel (bĕ-krĕl', bĕk'ə-rĕl') Family of French physicists, including Antoine César (1788–1878), one of the first investigators of electrochemistry; his son Alexandre Edmond (1820–1891), noted for his research on phosphorescence and spectroscopy; and his grandson Antoine Henri (1852–1908), who shared a 1903 Nobel Prize for fundamental work in nuclear physics.
Thinking the name looked related to “baker”, I found that Becquer, as well as Bekker, Backer, and Becker are all variants derived from the German bäker, meaning baker. Families named Becquer show up in genealogy primarily in French and Flemish-speaking countries; the addition of –el (Becquerel) or –elle (Becquerelle)— represents a diminutive in early French surnames (little son of, little daughter of).
April 14, 2007, 13:55
The occupation: lister – a dyer
The person: Joseph Lister (1827-1912), English physician who revolutionized surgery by performing the first ever antiseptic surgery in 1865. He objected in vain to the use of his name for the product noted below.
The eponym: listerine – an antiseptic solution Originally formulated as a surgical antiseptic; today, used as a mouthwash. We illustrate both usages.
In those days carbolic acid was scarcely understood, iodoform did not exist, listerine was yet to be discovered, and A physician would sooner have beheaded a patient than have bandaged a wound and left it untouched for days depending on nature and bichloride of mercury to heal it. – New York Times, Apr. 16, 1898, regarding the US Civil War.
Before you give a kid Listerine, make sure that he knows not to swallow it. – Jack Canfield et al., Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul
April 15, 2007, 07:54
The occupation: messner – South German occupational name for a sexton, churchwarden, or verger. (The double s is from association with Messe 'Mass'.) Alternate spelling Mesmer.
The person: Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), Austrian physician who developed a theory of animal magnetism and a mysterious body fluid which allows one person to hypnotize another.
The eponym: mesmerize – 1. to spellbind; enthrall 2. to hypnotize
But that night, I was mesmerized. This world was where I belonged. On that night I had started on my way to become a Harlemite. I was going to become one of the most depraved parasitical hustlers among New York's eight million people – four million of whom work, and the other four million of whom live off them. – Attallah Shabazz, Alex Haley, and Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Frolicking in the wildflowers just ain't Texan, it would seem. Yet at this time of year, tens of thousands of men, women and children head to the central hills to linger, lounge and lollygag amid the bluebonnets. … With petals that legend says resemble the hats of pioneer women, the boot-high bluebonnet can mesmerize the toughest of big folk in Texas. … Yes, the flower is even named "texensis." – Chicago Tribune, Apr. 12, 2007
April 16, 2007, 08:04
napier – a maker or seller of table linen; the servant in charge of the linen a great house
Napier's Bones – a set of graduated rods used to perform multiplication quickly. It was an early calculator. See here. [After John Napier (1550-1617), Scottish mathematician who invented logarithms and introduced the use of the decimal point. Napier published his invention under the title Rabdologiæ (Greek rabdos rod + logos word). Hence the art of performing arithmetic with Napier's bones is called rabdology or rhabdology.]
He was enchanted, and he would have gone on for ever, if I had not mentioned Napier's bones, Gunter's scales – the applied mathematics of navigation – lunars – the necessary tables. – Patrick O'Brian, H.M.S. Surprise
Bonus Word: Gunter's scale – a wooden rule, marked with scales of trigonometric functions and logarithms, to solve mechanically problems in surveying and navigation [invented by the Rev. Edmund Gunter (1581-1626), prof. of astronomy, Gresham College, London]
April 16, 2007, 08:45
The International System unit of radioactivity, equal to one nuclear decay or other nuclear transformation per second.
A Curie, named in honor of Madame Curie, who won the Nobel Prize twice, at a time when there were very few women scientists. A curie is a unit of radioactivity equal to 3.7 x 10 to the 10 disintigrations per second (I don't know how to do a superscript.) Unless the definition has been changed in recent years, it is another way of measuring radioativity. Madame Curie is one of my heroes. ("Heroine" has a different, Gothic novel, connotation.)
April 17, 2007, 07:32
bowdler – a worker in iron ore
Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825) published an expurgated Shakesreare edition "in which those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family."
bowdlerize – to expurgate prudishly, by deleting or editing matter deemed indelicate
I am addressing parents who, in numerous locales, have demanded the removal of Huckleberry Finn from syllabi solely on the basis of the presence of the N-word -- without having read the novel itself … . I am addressing eradicationists who, on grounds of racial indecency, presmumably want to bowdlerize or censor such poems as Carl Sandburg's "Nigger Lover," stories such as Theodore Dreiser's "Nigger Jeff," Claude McKay's "Nigger Lover," … [etc.] – Randall Kennedy, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word
[Interesting insertion of the word presumably.]
April 18, 2007, 08:31
The reader who provided today's word assures me that though it is not in any dictionary, it is well-known to any US-trained lawyer. It is part of elementary training in legal research.
A lawyer, writing a brief, is about to cite a court case. How embarrassing would it be if he cites and relies on a case that was later overruled! To be certain, he needs some resource which, for any case, gives him a list of all later court decisions that cite it. (That may also lead him to cases that agree with the legal point but state it more convincingly.)
Legal publishers have put out that resource, titled Shepherd's Citations, in book form with frequent supplements. Lawyers routinely check their cites this way, and it would be sloppy practice not to check. That checking has come to be called shepardizing (even though it can now be done with various net-sources, rather that by Shepard's paper-volumes).
shepherdize – to update a legal citation by finding later cases that cite that same citation
[Judge] Jahnke told all parties he would research the issue – "Shepherdize these citations," and issue his decision in a memo. – Grand Forks (ND) Herald, Mar. 4, 2007
If you have made a mistake, own up to it. If you forgot to shepherdize a case and a partner asks you about it, come clean rather than fudge your answer. We all goofed at one time or another … – Summer Assciates (Supplement to The Legal Intelligencer and Pensylvania Law Weekly), June 2005
Edit: You got me, sir! Corrected now.This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
April 18, 2007, 15:23
(S|s)hep(h)(e|a)rdize -- so exactly how is that spelled again?
Myth Jellies Cerebroplegia--the cure is within our grasp