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Many eponyms are the names of characters in literature, including mythology and the bible. We can speak of a Hercules or a hermaphrodte, a Judas or a Jonah, a milquetoast or a munchkin.

From the world of writings we also have occasional eponyms that are not merely character names. Obviously, an author's name can used to mean "written by or in the style of": a shakespearean sonnet. A few of these non-character eponyms have a larger sense. This week we'll look at some of them, familiar and unfamiliar.

Baedeker – A guidebook to countries or a country; more generally, a guidebook to places
[after Karl Baedeker, 1801-1859, who published a series of travel guidebooks]
    Without some yet-to-be-written Baedeker, the casual visitor to Santa Fe in the '90s would scarcely detect the activities and events which signal a major change in the city's legendary but willfully old-line art world.
    – Jan Ernst Adlmann, Art in America, Jan. 1995

    Why traipse all over town searching for the perfect cut, wax, or brow tweese when Benton Jordan, the brains behind the new beauty Baedeker head to toe, has done the work for you? ... she has collected the low-down on 350 local salons and spas in a comely aqua Zagat-sized paperback.
    – Audrey Davidow, Los Angeles Magazine, August 2001
 
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Baedekers have kept their price, and utility. Folks collect them, and I enjoy reading them. It's interesting to see what was to be seen in the tourist scene of a century ago. Here's a nice article.
 
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Boswell – an assiduous and devoted recorder of another's life, words and deeds.
[after James Boswell (1740-1795), renowned as biographer of Samuel Johnson]
    The black-capped chickadee is a half-ounce bundle of feathers, unbridled energy and--as scientists are discovering--amazing avian brainpower. And Susan Smith, no weirder than most bird students, is its Boswell. Her 1991 book is a notably readable summary of everything then known about the species.
    – Les Line, Total recall - chickadee behavior, National Wildlife, Feb. 1, 1998

    Chief Seattle's ecosermon in 1854, extolling the virtues of living in harmony with nature, has become part of environmental lore. The speech is quoted everywhere.
    . . .Except for one niggling detail: It's all bogus. Henry Smith, the frontier doctor who became Chief Seattle's self-appointed Boswell, however, didn't actually publish a translation of the Chief's speech until 1887--more than 30 years later
    – Linda Marsa, Talk is Chief, Omni, Dec. 1992
In 2002 the Supreme Court of India (at §12) quoted in full this bogus Chief Seattle speech, with high praise, stating, "The reply is profound. It is beautiful. It is timeless. It contains the wisdom of the ages. It is the first ever and the most understanding statement on environment. The whole of it is worth quoting as any extract from it is to destroy its beauty."
 
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During James Polk's 1844 campaign for US president, the Ithaca Chronicle, in upstate New York, published blockbuster excerpts from Roorback's Tour through the Western and Southern States in 1836. Baron Von Roorback had told of meeting a group of slave traders, noting, "Forty of these unfortunate beings had been purchased, I was informed, of the Hon. J. K. Polk, the present speaker of the house of representatives; the mark of the branding iron, with the initials of his name on their shoulders distinguishing them from the rest."

The Chronicle had made a total fabrication. No such Baron existed; no such book existed; the extract was lifted from a recent travel-book by George W. Featherstonhaugh, and altered by inserting Polk's name and shifting the locale to near Polk's home. So today's eponym, the name of an author, is uniquely that of an author who never existed.

roorback (or roorbach) – a defamatory lie, put out to smear a politician
    Nor is the typical American journalist's credulity confined to such canards and roorbacks from far places. He is often victimized just as easily at home.
    – H.L. Mencken, Journalism in America

A longer Mencken extract (ellipses omitted), leading up to his above sentence, will certainly be amusing, and it may be timely. For Dan Rather of CBS News, following controversy over a false news story he aired, has recently announced that he will be taking early retirement

For example, the problem of false news. How does so much of it get into the American newspapers, even the good ones? [The checkers], facing the elemental professional problem of distinguishing between true news and false, turned out to be incompetent. Obviously, the way to diminish such failures in future is not to adopt sonorous platitudes borrowed from the realtors, the morticians, the sanitary plumbers and the Kiwanis, but to undertake an overhauling of the faulty technic, and of the incompetent personnel responsible for it. I don't think it will make demands that are impossible. The bootlegging, legal or delicatessen professions, confronted by like demands, would quickly furnish the talent necessary to meet them; I see no reason why the profession of journalism should not measure up as well.

When the means are readily at hand, [the news editor] often attempts to check it, and sometimes even rejects it. But when such checking presents difficulties – in other words, when deceit is especially easy, and hence should be guarded against most vigilantly – he succumbs nine times out of ten, and without a struggle. It was precisely by this process that the editors of the Times made that paper ridiculous. In the face of great improbabilities, they interpreted their inability to dispose of them as a license to accept them as truth. Journalism will be a sounder and more dignified profession when a directly contrary interpretation of the journalist's duty prevails. There will then be less news in the papers, but it will at least have the merit of being true.

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A longer Mencken extract (ellipses omitted), leading up to his above sentence, will certainly be amusing, and it may be timely. For Dan Rather of CBS News, following controversy over a false news story he aired, has recently announced that he will be taking early retirement

And of course, the same occurs on both sides of the aisle.
 
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the same occurs on both sides of the aisle.
I assume this is an Americanism and refers to the Senate or House of Representatives?

If I were to see this out of context I'd assume it was referring to the wedding tradition which has the bride's family sitting on one side of the aisle of a church, with the bridegroom's family on the other.

(Especially as the post was made by Kalleh!) Smile


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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pasquinade – a satire or lampoon, esp. one ridiculing a specific person. verb: to ridicule with a pasquinade (pasquin; pasquil – rarer terms; same meanings; can also mean 'one who lampoons')

In 1501, an ancient statute was unearthed and set up in a public square in Rome. Folks took to posting lampoons and satirical verses on the statue, which they nicknamed "Pasquino" after some sharp-tongued curmudgeon. (Sources differ as to whether he was an ancient or a contemporary, a schoolmaster, a tailor or a cobbler.) Soon the term pasquinata came to mean such a lampoon, and an English form became current when Thomas Nash, in 1589, began using the pseudonym of 'Pasquil of England'.

To give you the full flavor, I must quote a pasquinade at length.
    When Michaelis's testimony at the inquest brought to light Wilson's suspicions of his wife I thought the whole tale would shortly be served up in racy pasquinade ... – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    [During the hullabaloo when P.T. Barnum brought Jumbo the Elephant to America,] the New York Times claimed Queen Victoria "would often romp with him by the hour, making him fetch and carry like a dog and rolling with him in innocent delight upon the turf. Later in life, when the danger that her Majesty might by accident roll upon Jumbo and seriously injure him became too obvious to be disregarded, the Queen ceased to romp with him, though she still kept up the custom of having him sit by her side at the tea-table and 'beg' for a lump of sugar like a trained poodle." All this was kept secret from the Liberals, of course, until the unfortunate day when Jumbo got tangled in a palace clothesline and became [dangerously] excited, thereby necessitating the intervention of the police. Barnum immediately composed a reply to this pasquinade, in which he generously offered to "assuage the royal grief and stop the flow of royal tears" by returning to England with Jumbo the following October. – A. H. Saxon, P.T. Barnum
 
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Two words today, but I can only provide an illustrative quote for one.

yapp binding – a style of leather bookbinding, with soft limp edges that overlap and thus protect the exposed edges of the pages.
Illustrated here. Use is almost completely confined to religious books.
[After William Yapp, bookseller in the latter part of the 19th century, who designed the style for pocket-bibles.]

machiavellian – cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous
[Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), It. statesman who, in The Prince (written ~1513, publ. 1532) advises that unethical methods may be needed to get and use political power]
    There are of course machiavellian manipulators everywhere who seek only to place themselves first.
    – Lloyd Best, Trinidad and Tobago Express, Jan. 15, 2005
 
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Knickerbocker: a New Yorker descended from the early Dutch settlers; or, more broadly, a New Yorker
In 1809 an ad in the New York Post sought the whereabouts Deitrich Knickerbocker, an elderly gentleman "not in his right mind." A later announcement told that, the man not being found, his creditors would publish an odd manuscript of his to satisfy his debts. Soon, there appeared Knickerbocker's History of New York.

It was a literary hoax. There was no such gentleman. The actual author was a young and then-unknown fellow, Washington Irving. The work, hilariously satirical, was a great success, and its exact title will give you a taste:
    A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. [subtitle:] Among many Surprising and Curious Matters, the Unutterable Ponderings of Walter the Doubter, the Disastrous Projects of William the Testy, and the Chivalric Achievements of Peter the Headstrong, the three Dutch Governors of New Amsterdam; being the only Authentic History of the Times that ever hath been, or ever will be Published.
So extravagant an origin calls for an extravagant illustration.
    Suzanne couldn't help herself. After all, he was only a laborer, and an Irish one at that. His long dark lashes lowered, and when he looked up from under them, his gaze was potently seductive. "Are you going to meet me, Miss Vanderkemp?" Suzanne did not have to think about it. Soon she would marry some pale, boring Knickerbocker, or maybe some moneyed newcomer. It wouldn't be horrid, but it would hardly be exciting. She wanted Jake O'Neil.
    – Brenda Joyce, After Innocence (excerpted)
 
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In an interesting site that Richard led me to, a subpage tells that "knickerbocker" comes from the game of marbles. The Dutch word for the game is "knikkers", and marbles would be made of ceramic; that is, of baked clay. The man whose profession was to make marbles was a "knikker bokker" (marble baker).
 
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I remember, just after the war, being treated to a "Knickerbocker Glory" in a cafe, an elaborate ice-cream concoction. You must appreciate that my family's relative poverty and the strictures of rationing meant that such treats were very special and my first Knickerbocker Glory was a memory I have treasured for years.

Now I look it up http://www.ice-cream-recipes.com/knickerbockerglory.htm I find that, contrary to my life-long belief that it was an American invention (my very early memories of getting sweets from the US military personnel who were billeted with us, doubtless made me believe that the USA was a country overflowing with sugary treats) it is actually British.


Richard English
 
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Who'd of thunk it?

The one thing in the world that Richard thought was an American invention turns out to be British.

Roll Eyes
 
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The one thing in the world that Richard thought was an American invention turns out to be British.

It's up to the Yanks to defend their own - and they do it very well. I seek only to redress the balance since the British, as a rule, are far too negative about Britain's achievements and the superiority of so much that is British.

Incidentally, did you notice that, in his resignation speech, Tony Blair - uniquely for a British Prime Minister, so far as I know - actually referred to Great Britain as the finest country in the world? Doubtless he learnt that trick from GWB, since it's something that US Presidents frequently say about the USA.


Richard English
 
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Listen to Blair's resignation speech?

Like everyone else I was too busy cheering the fact that he was making it to pay any attention to the content.

If only he wasn't being replaced by someone just as bad.
 
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If only he wasn't being replaced by someone just as bad.

Has there ever been a Prime Minister of whom everyone (or even a majority) has approved? Even Churchill was out on his ear as soon as the war was over.

I think that Blair has done no worse (and no better) than most post-war prime ministers - although it his crazy decision to drag the country into war that will be remembered by historians, not his positive achievements such as overseeing the Northern Ireland peace process.


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I, too, remember fondly the Knickerbocker Glory from my childhood. We would go to the coast on our summer holidays (vacation) and were treated to one at a seaside cafe. I remember that they were very expensive, usually 2/6d (half a crown) - far more than a week's pocket money. We were usually rationed to one per holiday each because of the cost, although we might occasionally be bought one extra as a special treat.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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