10.14.2012

we like lists: list # 19: more eponyms, subcategory edition

Eponyms everywhere! Who knew?

Our most recent list of eponyms was a smash success. It gave rise to at least three subcategories, as I wrote here:

- Inventor/creator/discoverer, not genericized. These are eponyms, but have not entered the vocabulary as a separate noun or descriptor. Example: Alzheimer's. Compare to pasteurized.

- Fictional characters
--- Mythological names
----- Biblical names

This list is more specific, and more difficult. Allan and I have done this one before, and even with help from a well-read listserv, came up with only a handful. (Idea for new reality show: Are you smarter than Wallace-L?)

When Joseph Heller died, I marveled at how his creation has entered our vocabulary as such a widely recognized generic expression. The often-misused phrase "catch-22" was long ago separated from its origins. I'm sure many people use it who have never heard of Heller's book. I wondered if there were any other examples.

Using a very strict criteria, we came up with very few:
Catch-22
Lolita
Big Brother
Scrooge

Here are the rules. Fiction only. Can be a title or a character. The author must be a known person whose identity is not in dispute. That means no myths, including bible stories, but of course Shakespeare can be used. The word must be recognizable as a generic term, enough that you'd see it used in a mainstream newspaper story.

Thanks to last night's thread, I'll add one that the Wallace list missed:
Romeo

Got any others? You can use our last list, but other than that, no cheating, please.

87 comments:

johngoldfine said...

'Brave new world ' is used often, I think, but perhaps via Huxley, not Shakespeare.

Probably not likely in a news story, but if I were writing headlines, I'd go with "Red Sox Enter Brave New World?"

"Real-life Crusoe rescued after months on deserted island!"

johngoldfine said...

"Elmer Gantry-like Minister Receives 10 Year Prison Sentence"

johngoldfine said...

Babbitt used to be extremely popular shorthand.

johngoldfine said...

'Micawber' had currency at one time.

'Call of the Wild' is in the language.

johngoldfine said...

"Local 'Bluebeard' Investigated After Fifth Wife's Mysterious Death"

James Redekop said...

The Odyssey was famously "written by Homer, or, if not him, someone else of the same name". Does that pass the "known person" rule? :) In which case, odyssey and mentor from the last list, plus trojan horse, achilles heel, etc.

From Dr. Seuss: grinch and nerd



johngoldfine said...

'hunting the white whale' (or is that too mobydiculous?)

laura k said...

Awesome! Brave new world, Crusoe, Grinch, Nerd.

Babbit, once, like Elmer Gantry.

No Homer. I'm putting that in the mythological category, no known author.

johngoldfine said...

Sticking with Sinclair Lewis! How about 'Main Street'?

laura k said...

I agree that "brave new world" is via Huxley, not Shakespeare. Proof: I have a Trivial Pursuit card that says:

Q: Who wrote "O brave new world, that has such people in't?"

A: Aldous Huxley

I removed it from the deck.

laura k said...

Sticking with Sinclair Lewis! How about 'Main Street'?

Nope.

johngoldfine said...

Wily Coyote?

johngoldfine said...

Little Miss Sunshine, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Little Rascals

johngoldfine said...

Ugly Duckling!

laura k said...

Ugly Duckling - wow! That's great. At first I thought it was Mother Goose, which would DQ it, but of course it's HCA.

Does anyone use Wily Coyote or Little Rascals as a generic?

johngoldfine said...

http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/07/wile_e_coyote_joins_obama_campaign_team.html

johngoldfine said...

I'd bet the Little Rascals is a reverse usage--that is, people were calling kids 'little rascals' long before the 'Our Gang' name morphed.

How about 'Lone Ranger'?

James Redekop said...

Oh, also from the last thread: polyanna. Someone else had mentioned malapropism as well. And "algebra" from al-Khwarismi's book title.

The original idea for a geostationary satellite came from Arthur C. Clarke's writing, but I don't think he coined the term. The orbit is sometimes called a Clarke orbit, but "geostationary" is more common.

johngoldfine said...

Simon Legree, Uncle Tom.

James Redekop said...

Shakespeare is chock-a-block with neologisms, some which you'd never think to attribute to him. I've heard him credited with up to 2000 new words, including "fitful", "hurry", "cranny", "hint", "brittle", etc -- never mind the phrases like "a rose by any other name" or "all that glisters is not gold"

laura k said...

Polyanna and Uncle Tom are both great!

None of the Shakespeare words qualify, we're not talking about neologisms - although Shakespeare is friggin amazing for that.

Arthur C. Clarke reference also DQ'd, sorry.

James Redekop said...

In England, the BBC radio program "The Goon Show" would use the fictitious disease "lurgi" (or "the lurgi") as a stand-in for random ailments ("I'm sorry I couldn't make it, I was down with the dreaded lurgi"), which apparently is now a British synonym for "cooties".

The Simpsons has a few which are in popular use, at least online:

- comulent (which is apparently now recognized by Webster's)
- embiggen
- Cheese-eating surrender monkeys
- Doh!
etc


johngoldfine said...

Still sticking with Sinclair Lewis, who had a way with phrases: 'It Can't Happen Here!'

johngoldfine said...

Dismissing 'Main Street': I don't know if the term was in use before Lewis as anything other than the name for the main stem, but Main St and Babbitt really do go together.

johngoldfine said...

The Manchurian Candidate

johngoldfine said...

Keystone Cops

James Redekop said...

Ah, I missed the "title or character" restriction. That's what I get for doing this between housework tasks...

johngoldfine said...

The Jazz Age

--FScott, 1922

johngoldfine said...

'Gift of the Magi' via OHenry, not the Gospel writers

laura k said...

Keystone Cops! Yes.

Manchurian Candidate and Wily Coyote are borderline, IMO. You might see them in a headline, but are they used in common speech, a la Uncle Tom or Pollyana? I'm thinking no. Same for Crusoe.

As always, YMMV. All are free to disagree with The Adjudicator.

allan said...

Cujo?

johngoldfine said...

What a bozo!

laura k said...

Now I will look up how to spell Pollyanna... two Ls, two Ns.

johngoldfine said...

Rip Van Winkle, Last of the Mohicans

laura k said...

What a bozo!

* insert Seinfeld reference here

Re Cujo, our dogwalker described a neighbour's dog as a cujo. I have never read that book or any S King novel, but I knew the reference. I'll allow it.

laura k said...

Rip Van Winkle!!! I can't believe no one thought of that sooner.

People use the expression "last of the mohicans"? Really?

johngoldfine said...

Lassie Come Home--Lassie has become the generic name used by the ignorant for all collies of either sex (for the record, our collies have been Sean, Quinn, and Maddie)

johngoldfine said...

I had a student named Gonzalo in Job Corps and had to protect him against being called 'Speedy Gonzales.'

johngoldfine said...

Here in Maine, until fairly recently, stores would sell Syrian Dagwoods--pita bread stuffed with stuff.

Somehow this came up on a JOS gamethread once, and Ofer wanted to know where the 'Syrian' part came from.

johngoldfine said...

My uncle, who was no reader, would refer to the last member of some group as the 'last of the mohicans.' Could have been him using the saying idiosyncratically, or, perhaps, early in the last century, lots of people said it, and he was just the last of the mohicans.

;)

johngoldfine said...

OT: a student piece I just read (I am supposed to be working, not adding to lists...) mentioned a 'Canadian tuxedo.' That was a new one on me, but google squared me away pretty quickly.

Is that a Canadian usage or just a USian insult?

laura k said...

My grandfather called over-stuffed sandwiches dagwoods.

I have trouble with many of these, but there's no stopping you, so have at it. :)

laura k said...

Canadian anything is almost always an insult. I was shocked to hear baseball broadcasters call midges or gnats Canadian soldiers. I had never heard of that, and it's obviously an insult, although Canadians are more likely to laugh than get upset.

Put this in the category of gypped, jewed, Dutch courage, Indian giver, and so on.

johngoldfine said...

Lilliputian, a modest proposal,

johngoldfine said...

Two Nations--Disraeli

johngoldfine said...

Oompa loompa

Here's the headline:

http://thestir.cafemom.com/in_the_news/144971/vice_presidential_debate_gives_us

allan said...

Not everything used in a headline once or twice qualifies. Like L says, it has to be something that is regularly used by normal people.

I'm not sure what Jazz Age is supposed to signify.

johngoldfine said...

I'm the normalest guy I know , allan!

Jazz Age is a book title and now a synonym for the 20s.

James Redekop said...

I used to wear a "Canadian tuxedo" regularly -- it was even black. The denim jacket's long since worn out, though, and I haven't been able to find any black denim jackets since...

laura k said...

The thing is, this is not a list of coined phrases. "Jazz Age" is neither a title of a work or a character. Wikipedia tells me there's a short story collection of Fitzgerald's called "Tales of the Jazz Age," but IMO this is really stretching it.

I think there's a difference between being recognizable - like Crusoe, Wily Coyote, Brave New World, Call of the Wild - and being part of the common language.

laura k said...

...Part of the common language in a genericized way. Not just "I'm using the title of this book in a headline".

James Redekop said...

"Sophie's choice"

laura k said...

Sophie's choice is used generically? I've seen it in headlines when there's someone named Sophie - similar to (as I just learned, researching a paper) "Charlotte's Web" being used anytime there's someone named Charlotte. But other than that, I've never seen it.

James Redekop said...

I've seen it used generically (much like "Hobson's choice" and "catch-22"). Wikipedia has an entry for the phrase as a generic term.

laura k said...

Go figure.

laura k said...

Yikes, I have some bad grammar there.

Amy said...

Don Juan

Quixotic



Amy said...

The three musketeers---we use that to refer to any group of three that always hangs out together. Not sure that is used commonly though.

Amy said...

Same with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Perhaps this is just my bizarre family---often used to refer to two people who are so inseparable that they merge into one entity.

laura k said...

Three Musketeers - maybe that is like my mom calling girls who dressed alike The Bobsey Twins.

Don Juan and Quixotic definitely good ones... and we got them already. :)

Amy said...

Really? I did a search on the page just to make sure I hadn't missed them, but I guess I did. Oh, well!

laura k said...

Hey, yeah! I guess we only used them on the first thread and didn't transfer them over. In which case, they're yours. :)

Amy said...

Well, I guess I missed them there. Just too many! And at least I know I thought of them on my own, which makes me feel good! :)

laura k said...

Yup, I just checked. Goldfine said Don Juan and I asked if quixotic counted. But as you said, you didn't see that.

Jere said...

James, you left an r out of cromulent and an apostrophe out of D'oh!

D'oh!

Jere said...

Somehow I doubt you'd hear this at the office:

"Only two munchkins left, a chocolate and a powdered. I know you love both kinds, but the boss hasn't had one yet. Looks like a bit of a Sophie's Choice for you, eh Steve?!"

And with that, incredibly, I inadvertently came up with one that I believe qualifies for the list: Munchkins! And not just because of the donut-hole product, my Nana used to call us munchkins all the time. Can anybody verify this term is used for little kids or runt of litter-types outside my family?

Jere said...

Now I'm realizing there are more from Oz, like "and your little dog too" and with the no longer being in Kansas and whatnot. Do these count? I've known quite a few wicked witches of the west too.

Jere said...

I'm pretty sure people say "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" a lot, too. Then again, I don't know which of these came from the book and which were invented for the movie.

laura k said...

Jere, please refrain from correcting other commenters' spelling. Thanks.

James Redekop said...

Maybe not in an office, but here's a union example:

"It was a Sophie’s Choice," Shemish said. "But eventually, a majority of members decided they could not accept the terms put forth."

Most searches for "a Sophie's choice" bring up headlines, just because of Google's algorithm, but few of them seem to involve women named Sophie.

laura k said...

But we're not doing famous lines from movies that are now part of the common culture. These are titles or characters.

[Comments from now on will go through much later today.]

impudent strumpet said...

I've heard "muggle" used in various geeky contexts to mean "a person who isn't into the thing that we're geeky about".

laura k said...

Munchkins! And not just because of the donut-hole product, my Nana used to call us munchkins all the time. Can anybody verify this term is used for little kids or runt of litter-types outside my family?

Munchkin! Jere, that's great. I used to call our little dog Clyde "my little munchkin". I use it to mean "cute small thing".

(Missed this comment earlier.)

Muggle, that's cool, too.

I noticed a few of these on the other thread that weren't repeated here. Now I can't think of what they were...

laura k said...

Maybe munchkins is like some others on this list - the three musketeers, last of the mohicans - which some people hear and use locally but which aren't really widespread. Maybe, just a thought.

Allan feels (although he hasn't gotten around to posting it) that most of the phrases listed here don't really qualify, not in the sense of very widespread usage divorced from the original work, the way Catch-22, Big Brother, or Uncle Tom are.

Amy said...

Just reading through these more carefully and saw JohnG's reference to Lassie as generic for a collie. I have had two collies (Zapper and Cassie), and people always would see us walking either dog and say, "Lassie!" But not generically---as a joking reference to the actual Lassie, not as a term meaning all collies. So I don't think that counts. You don't hear people saying,"My dog is a lassie." But maybe that's my trademark brain getting in the way again.

johngoldfine said...

Hey Amy--I agree that no one says 'a lassie' unless referring to an actual Scots lassie. But I've seen a million kids run up to our collies, throw their arms around the dogs' necks, and squeal, "Lassie!"

Similarly, when Maddie was doing therapy-dog work in nursing homes, everyone asked her name and then, oblivious, called her 'Lassie' anyway.

So it seems to me that the name, while not preceded by an article, still has become a generic indicator of collie. Wouldn't you be astonished if I told you my Jack Russell was named 'Lassie'?!!

I'm trying to think of other names that immediately summon a dog breed. If I tell you have a dog named 'Fifi,' will you assume the worst and guess a pampered, perfumed poodle? (Actually, my unpampered and unperfumed poodle is 'Patrick.')

impudent strumpet said...

Adults in my family called us munchkins back when we were little and cute.

laura k said...

Adults in my family called us munchkins back when we were little and cute.

Another data point. Possibly a generational thing? Your parents are my age group, more or less, I think.

Amy, I agree with you re Lassie. That's why I think many of the titles/characters on this thread don't count.

Once upon a time, people would call German Shepherds "Rin Tin Tin" or "Rinny" after that famous dog. But not anymore, and not generically.

laura k said...

Oh, how could I forget! People would always look at Buster and say "Petey!"

James Redekop said...

In Dungeons & Dragons playing, "munchkins" are players with disproportionately aggressive playing styles, always trying to best their team-mates, cluelessly turning the what's supposed to be a co-operative game into a competition.

Before "muggle", people in fantasy & science fiction fandom referred to "normal people" as "mundanes". The more outgoing fans would love to play "freak the mundanes" by heading out into public in their costumes &c. "Muggle" is now the accepted term.

It's also caught on among geocachers: "Be careful when getting this cache out of its hiding spot, there are often muggles around."

Amy said...

John, when people call out "Lassie" when they see a collie, they are thinking of the "real" Lassie, unlike when I call a small child a munchkin---I am not at all referring to or even thinking of the characters from Oz.

Like I said, I tend to see these things through the trademark law definition of generic, where, for example, people may use a term like Xerox in a generic way to refer to any copier, but they know that Xerox is still a brand name; thus, it is not legally generic and can still be protected as a trademark. In contrast, a term like aspirin, which started as a brand name but which almost no one in the US thinks of as a brand name at all, no longer has any protection under trademark law. (I understand that in Canada it is still a brand.) So to me and most people, Lassie still refers to the dog from the books/movies/television shows, even if some people use it loosely to refer to all collies.

impudent strumpet said...

Do they have to be nouns? I just remembered today that "yoink" is from the Simpsons, and the internet recently told me that "meh" is too.

laura k said...

It doesn't have to be a noun, but it's supposed to be a character's name or a title. If we called something a Bart or a Homer, that would count.

Meh is from The Simpsons? Wow.

laura k said...

I don't think legal definitions of trademarks have much to do with this. Xerox and aspirin are the same thing in this context, IMO.

juna said...

Okay. I have to weigh in on "meh". I'm almost positive it predates the Simpsons, at least in the U.K. I'll have to do some virtual hunting around.

allan said...

Wiki: Meh

laura k said...

Wiki is a poor source for etymology. But the Online Etymology Dictionary says 2003.