Tag Archives: eponyms
myrmidon

myrmidon

  statue of Ovid in Constanţa (ancient Tomis, the city where he was exiled), Romania – 1887, by the Italian sculptor Ettore Ferrari – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Kurt Wichmann     The noun myrmidon denotes a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly. This word first appeared in the […]

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rhesus

rhesus

  Le Rhesus (Simia Rhesus) – illustration by Jean-Baptiste Audebert for his treatise, Histoire naturelle des singes et des makis (1799) – image: Bibliothèque nationale de France / gallica.bnf.fr     This word is from French rhésus, formerly rhesus, and from its etymon, the scientific Latin (Simia) Rhesus. In Histoire naturelle des singes et des makis (Natural History of the Monkeys and Lemurs – 1799), the […]

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Rotten Row

Rotten Row

  the Rotten-row in Glasgow, circa 1570 image: The Glasgow Story     The street name Rotten Row occurs in many different towns. For example, The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh) of 10th December 1728 published the following advertisement: There is just come to Leith, a Parcel of fine Figs both in Casks and Frails [= baskets], which will be sold there at […]

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peeping Tom

peeping Tom

  A drawing of Peeping Tom, in the exact state in which he is carved, but divested of all paint and superfluous ornaments. W. Reader in The Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle (London) of July 1826 The Coventry Peeping Tom statue, which dates from around 1500, survives today. Though it is now stripped down to the oak, […]

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corduroy

corduroy

  photograph: javi.velazquez       MEANING   a heavy cotton pile fabric with lengthways ribs     ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The original form of this noun, in the late 18th century, was corderoy. The earliest use of the word that I could find is in The Manchester Mercury (Lancashire) of Tuesday 7th April 1772: Manchester, March 23, 1772. STOLEN. From […]

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midinette

midinette

    Phonetically and semantically similar to milliner, the French word midinette was defined as “a milliner’s female assistant, especially in Paris” in the 1933 Supplement to the New English Dictionary (as the Oxford English Dictionary was known). However, while milliner literally means a Milanese, a native or inhabitant of Milan, midinette is a portmanteau word, composed of midi, midday, and dînette, light dinner, […]

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milliner

milliner

  A Morning Ramble, or The Milliners Shop (1782) image: The British Museum     A milliner is a person (generally a woman) who makes or sells women’s hats. But a Milliner was originally a native or inhabitant of Milan, a city in northern Italy. The word is first recorded in this sense in an Act of Parliament in 1449: That every Venician, Italian, Januey, […]

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‘Ajax’

‘Ajax’

  This word means a toilet, especially an outdoor one. The following is from A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), by Randle Cotgrave: Retraict [modern French retrait]: masculine. An Aiax, Priuie, house of Office [= outdoor toilet]. It is a humorous respelling of a jakes, of same meaning, after Ajax, the name of a hero in Greek mythology. […]

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Hobson’s choice

Hobson’s choice

  Thomas Hobson (1629), by an unknown artist – image: National Portrait Gallery     MEANING   the option of taking the one thing offered or nothing    ORIGIN   The earliest use of the phrase (in its present form, if the original spelling was preserved) that I could find dates back to 1649. That year, […]

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Harriet Lane – Fanny Adams

Harriet Lane – Fanny Adams

  Lamentation of Henry Wainwright, For the Murder and Mutilation of Harriet Lane (1875)     MEANING   The Northern Daily Mail and South Durham Herald (Northumberland) of 14th July 1894 published an article titled Naval slang: How Jack re-christens things, which contains the following: The preserved meat served out to him is known as […]

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