Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day Seventeen: Anonyponymous

Yikes! It's already Day Seventeen in The 24 Days of Books! Where does the time go?? Today I'm going to tell you about a cute little book that would make a wonderful stocking stuffer or just a terrific gift for the language lover in your life. Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words, by John Bemelmans Marciano, does exactly that: it tells you the fascinating but little known stories about people who have (typically inadvertently) bequeathed their names to language but the original person has been long forgotten.

The word eponymous means "giving one's name to a person, place or thing," and we all know what anonymous means. Hence the title. Anonyponymous tells you about the real life person whose name was taken by algorithm, blurb, crapper, dunce, nicotine, pilates, galvanize, maverick (I can assure you it has nothing to do with either John McCain or Sarah Palin), and nicotine. You'll learn about The Earl of Sandwich, Harry Shrapnel, Joseph-Ignace Guillotine, Charles Boycott, and Jules Leotard. The book offers a compendium of intriguing trivia and a window into the fascinating world of etymology.

The author, who also did the sketches in the book, is the grandson of award-winning writer Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the beloved children's books about Madeline, who lived in "an old house in Paris that was covered with vines.....[with] twelve little girls in two straight lines....The smallest one was Madeline." I have always loved Madeline -- yes, even as a grown-up. Marciano lives in Brooklyn with his wife Andromache and daughter Galatea and cats Maud and Liddy. According to his website, "In Brooklyn we name our pets like people and our people like obscure cultural references."

For many more gift-giving ideas, check out our gargantuan December newsletter, which you can read by clicking here.

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