Gimme words like this: "draconian"

A while back, in some thread I can’t find (it may have been one of those “things you’re amazed people don’t know” threads or it may have been a thread about how there was some campaign on the island of Lesbos trying to get people to stop using “lesbian” in the gay context) there were a few examples of words derived from either historical people or populaces that are now so firmly entrenched in the English language that almost all of the original connotation is pretty much missing.

I remember that one example was “draconian” and people contributed some others that I found really neat-o!

So hit me with some Word of the Day stuff!

Silhouette. See wiki.

Samuel Maverick was a rancher who refused to brand his cattle.

  • Boycotting
  • Chauvinism
  • Sideburns (although I think his name was Burnsides)
  • Santorum (sorry, that’s one for fans of the Savage Love column)
  • Socratic, as in method
  • Newtonian
  • Thespian, Terpsichorean, etc. - other Muse-following words
  • Apollonian vs. Dionysian
  • Mercurial
  • Procrustean, as in the bed, where there is a no-win situation

Lots of places to go with this…

Oh, that’s a cool one! I had no idea.

Me neither. I will now refer to a silhouette as a ‘cave of bats’. :slight_smile:

…or has become completely reversed.

People use the Midas touch to indicate someone whose touch turns everything to gold –and this is a good thing.

The myth from ancient Greece is about a king who was so greedy he wanted the ability to turn everything that he touched into gold. His wish was granted –by the god Hermes, I believe- and the king then realized that this ability quickly became a curse as his food and then later daughter were turned into solid gold. Seems the original moral of the story of not being a greedy rat bastard has been lost with the mists of time.

Betcha didn’t know the cardigan sweater was named after an English nobleman. :slight_smile:

Other items of clothing named after people:
Wellington boots (Duke of Wellington)
Nehru jackets and collars (Jawaharlal Nehru)
Bloomers (Amelia Bloomer)
Van Dyck suits and collars (Anthony van Dyck)

There’s laconic.


Shrapnel, named for its inventor, Henry Shrapnel, an officer in the British Army.

Sadism, Masochism

fictional example: Gargantuan, after the giant so named in one of Rabelais’s satires.


Quisling, a traitor



Harvard fencing coach Robert Weyer turned the sport all around. He introduced more comfortable gear, and he invented several maneuvers that let Harvard dominate fencing for several years. He has been dead for decades, but even today, everyone knows about Bob Weyer fencing. :stuck_out_tongue:

Nitpick: Thespis was an early actor, not a muse.

oooh, Mentor was the old wise dude who helped out Odysseus by looking after his young son.

I never would have thought tights were named after a dude.

Dionysus, actually. My fault, really. I was having such a good time…