Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Eponymous instrument makers: from Sax to Stradivari

Saxophone

Today is Saxophone Day, a.k.a. the birthday of Adolphe Sax, which has inspired us to think about other instruments that take their name in some way from their inventors (sidenote: for the correct use of eponymous see this informative diatribe in the New York Times). Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) Belgian inventor of the saxophone. Fun fact: […]

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From lamingtons to sandwiches: looking at eponymous foods

iStock_000011574348Medium

For some, Anna Pavlova is considered one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. For others, her legacy lives on in the form of the dessert she inspired. We celebrate her birthday on 31 January (by the Old Style of dating; her actual birthday according to the Gregorian calendar would be 12 February), and in […]

On culinary vocabulary

On culinary vocabulary

We tend to take the names of the things we put in our mouths for granted. But once in a while we may do a double take. At bang-bang chicken, for example: why on earth is it called that? Who dreamed up such outlandish terms as death by chocolate and pigs in blankets? Where did […]

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Making a marque: automotive etymologies

Making a marque: Automotive etymologies

On a recent cloudy Sunday afternoon I found myself shepherding the truck-crazy young son of a friend of mine round the crowded arena of a retro and classic truck show at a motor museum in the English Midlands. There were hundreds of trucks of all ages and manufacturers neatly parked in rows and we walked […]

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

Eponymous English: from Benjamins and John Hancocks to boycotts and Draping?

We all strive to leave a legacy. We remember history’s greats through plaques and monuments, books and movies, songs and works of art. Another (often overlooked) way we pay homage to people of the past is through language. We might name a place, a theorem, or even a disease after the person who first visited […]

Linsanity: a star is born

Basketball game

The Internet in general and the sports world in particular (as least that aspect of it that follows basketball) have been fairly agog of late, following the sudden elevation of the New York Knicks latest star, one Jeremy Lin. This is not surprising, given that the story of an Asian-American player from Harvard achieving stardom […]

Shrapnel, Plimsoll, Joule, Boole: eponyms in science and invention

Leylandii

You have to feel sorry for Christopher Leyland. Having inherited his father’s Northumberland country estate in 1889, Leyland dedicated his life to its improvement, paying particular attention to the gardens and the cultivation of trees. By his death in 1926 the estate boasted (among many other things) a palm house, an arboretum, and a menagerie […]

The prime minister in your teapot, the hero on your plate: eponyms in Oxford Dictionaries

Cup of tea

If you were asked to think about the link between real-life people and English language dictionaries, the connection you’d probably make is lexicographers—people like the great Dr Johnson or the OED’s founder James Murray, who compiled those mighty reference works on which we rely for information and enjoyment. And you’d be right, up to a […]

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