Our “psychology” theme ended yesterday with a word taken from a nobleman, Baron Münchhausen. We follow it with a theme of words taken from names of nobles or royalty.
yarborough –a hand, at whist or bridge (13 cards) with no card 10 or above: no 10, jack, queen, king, or ace (which is, by the way, an ungodly bad hand)
[The Second Earl of Yarborough, Charles Anderson Worsley (1809–1897), would pay £1,000 if such a hand occurred, against a £1 bet. He made a good deal of money at it, for the true odds are about 1800-to-1.]
. . .The bald-headed Eric nodded sympathetically. “I have held such hands all my life,” he said.
– David Bird and Ron Klinger, Kosher Bridge
"1,828.042084 to 1" said the actuary. And not a wise play by Yarborough.
Excellent odds for a 1,000:1 payoff -- if you're a casino with thousands of clients, millions of rounds. Not so good if you are an individual with a finite social circle.
Related to the so-called "St. Petersburg Paradox." See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/paradox-stpetersburg/
SO: Does St. Peter himself qualify as an indirect eponym?!
So how is it related to the St.Petersburg paradox? Yarborough's bet seems like a straight-forward, non-paradoxical wager.
Any finite amount of initial capital will eventually be ruined.
If I run a casino with just a little edge, $1 vs. $1.01, in flipping a fair coin, I'll be ruined quicker than if the house edge is $1.50 vs. $1.00. The "richer" game carries me a little longer.
If I run a casino with a 1.8:1 edge like the nobleman, but with 1000:1 payoff, the chances of a ruinous run are that much greater.
St. Petersburg accelerates that even further, doubling the bet each round. Thus it is an even faster road to ruin, as more than a few hedge funds have learned.
There is really no paradox in St. Petersburg, just variations in time to ruin.
Oh, if one could only mithridatize oneself against boring people! This comes from Mithridates VI of Pontus (Mithridates the Great), a remarkable character of whom you’ve probably never heard.
Mithridates was a formidable adversary of Rome, which needed three wars to subdue him (88-63 B.C.).¹ Mithridates must have had a remarkable mind, for he mastered almost two dozen languages! Pliny reports, “Mithridates, who was king of twenty-two nations, administered their laws in as many languages, and could harangue each of them, without employing an interpreter."
His name survives, in rare words, from his fear that internal enemies would poison him. Accordingly, he regularly ingested small doses to develop an immunity (a technique still sometimes used by those who deal with venomous snakes), and he concocted a general antidote said to be good against multiple poisons.²
mithridate – an antidote against poison, especially a confection formerly held to be an antidote to all poisons.
mithridatism – tolerance or immunity to a poison, acquired by taking gradually larger doses of it.
Here’s a jocular usage:
– New York Times, July 23, 1889 (ellipses omitted; note the variant spelling)
¹ Julius Caesar’s famous message, Veni, vidi, vici, was a succinct report of his later campaign against Mithridates’ son.
² Pliny’s report of this gave us our phrase “taken with a grain of salt”. Pliny lists ingredients and directs you to “pound them all together, with the addition of a grain of salt.”This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
orrery – a clockwork model of the solar system.
[after Charles Boyle, fourth Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), for whom one was made]
– Time Magazine, May 14, 1951
In line with our “noblemen” theme, today’s word, like yesterday’s ‘orrery’, is named after an earl.
Tupperware – a range of plastic containers, etc., sold exclusively at ‘parties’ for potential buyers (proprietary name)
[after Earl S. Tupper, company founder. Sorry, folks, I couldn’t resist!]
Some interesting uses of this familiar word:
– Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed
It was a shock. She looked awful. Haggard, frowsy, desperate, like some stressed-out Tupperware hostess or something.
– T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
"That blond strip club owner with the Tupperware breasts?"
– Shayla Black, Decadent
… women are buying vibrators at a ferocious rate … especially … in the conservative South, where women who routinely attend church with their husbands also congregate for "Passion Parties" … — … "the Tupperware Party of the new millennium." At these popular women-only affairs, sex toys and lingerie are sold in impressive quantities, along with detailed instructions.
– New York Times Book Review, February 5, 2006
Do you suppose his family name is related to "tupp" in the Shakesperian sense? (Othello)
pompadour – a woman’s or man’s hairstyle (like Elvis') with the hair swept up over the forehead
[after Antoinette Poisson (1721-64), Marquise de Pompadour mistress of Louis XV of France from 1745-50, but first used as a hairstyle in the late 1800s. At her death Voltaire wrote, “It seems absurd that while an ancient penpusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty”.]
The word seems to have a connotation of “vulgarly overdone”.
– Nancy Martin, Murder Melts in Your Mouth
Morrie ran a comb through his dark, Brylcreemed hair, which swept up in the pompadour style of the time and ended in a ducktail at the back.
– Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One
mausoleum – 1. a large stately tomb (or a building housing one or more such tombs) 2. a gloomy, usually large room or building
[from Mausolos, the name of a Persian king of Caria, died ~353 B.C. His tomb, to which the name was originally applied, was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.]
– Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
Solomon – a very wise person. (adj. Solomonic). Wordcrafter note: I’d say this term often has the implication of “thinking outside the box,” finding a novel, creative solution.
[from King Solomon of ancient Israel c.970-c.930 B.C., famed for his wisdom
A thought about the situation of Tibet, as brought to the world's attention by the upcoming Beijing Olympics:
– Manila Standard, Apr. 7, 2008
Readers of A Shropshire Lad will know of him:
There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast, 60
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all the springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more, 65
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat; 70
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
—I tell the tale that I heard told. 75
Mithridates, he died old.