Submitted by marta  •  August 10, 2004

Proper Names

What’s the linguistic term for the words derived from proper names (e.g. Dianaphiles, Blarism, Clintonite, Ophranisation, MacDonaldisation)?

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They are eponyms

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I enjoy collecting words that come into the English language from proper names. E.g. the word "leotard" is derived from Jules Léotard (1830-1870), Fr. trapeze artist who performed in such a garment.
Please send me any other eponyms you are familiar with.
Thank You

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Wait a minute.

Aren't we casually relegating those examples to the "eponym pile" without really examining and comparing them to the accepted eponyms?

An eponym is actually someone (not the new word) whose name has become identified with a particular object or activity.

The Cook Islands are named for Captain James Cook.

A joule is a unit of work, energy, or heat and is named after James Prescott Joule.

John F. Kennedy is an eponym simply for all the schools, the Kennedy Center, and other things which now bear his name.

I suggest there's a growing trend to add suffixes to people's names to create new words designed to identify the characteristics of that person to something or someone else.

Most examples of eponyms are not such concatenations.

We already accept Newtonian, so why not slap a suffix on someone's name to attribute that quality to something as well.

If there's not a name for this type of "word", there'll will be soon.

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You're right. But what about a strange verb 'to out-Disney' sth or sb which I've recently found in the net? Does anybody know what it might mean?

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I'm not sure from the context whether Walt Disney, the man, or the Disney corporation was meant. Either way, it means that there is some characteristic that is considered typical of or is strongly associated with Disney, and the "out-Disneyer" is surpassing (outdoing) Disney in that respect.

One of the earliest notable uses of the construction is in the phrase "to out-Herod Herod." In the Christian Bible, King Herod was said to have ordered the slaughter of all the Hebrew children of toddler age and younger in an effort to kill the infant Jesus (apparently because he felt that Jesus was going to usurp his throne). Because this was such an outrageous, egregious, over-the-top thing to do, Herod's name was used as a general example of extreme behavior. Therefore, to "out-Herod Herod" meant to engage in behavior SO extreme that it shocked the speaker even more than the story about Herod and his mass murders.

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