Dr.Q And Word Origins

First of all, Bồ would like to dedicate this second post to Dr.Q.

For over the years, Dr.Q has been a great source of academic inspiration. He is also a very knowledgeable and visionary mentor of mine.

I must accredit Dr.Q for the informative value of this entry. Not only for  all of these definitions (every single one of them) have I learned from him, but also for the explanations of their origins.

This entry is simply a revised narration of a conversation I once had with Dr.Q. As usual, Bồ asked Dr.Q for the definition of one word. And the question, after being thoroughly answered, triggered about ten more other terms.

The cue word of that day was maverick. And the story began…

Maverick

The term maverick is used to refer to someone who is a social outcast, a rebel. Nonconformists who insist on doing things their ways are called mavericks. The story behind this word dated back to the 1800s, where a cattleman named Maverick, let his cows run unbranded without any identification mark. Since then, people used his name to address anyone that acts against social conventions. Maverick was a maverick because he did not follow common practice of herding his animal.

After taking care of the term maverick, I then asked,“Do all English words have interesting origins like maverick?” Here is the answer, maverick is an eponym. Then, the term eponym arose…

Eponym

An eponym is a word that originates from a person’s name. An epic example is sandwich-that thing you ate this morning. It is named after the guy, who practically put the idea of eating two slices of bread filled with meat into actuality, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

And so, the rest of the entry will be all eponyms.

Quixotic

I am pretty positive that most people have, at least one point in their lives, heard of the character Don Quixote (pronounced Don-kee-ho-teh). He is a fictional character from the Spanish novel “Don Quixote” who is overly idealistic to the point of impractical. The adjective quixotic, is used to direct to people, things, ideas that are unrealistic or implausible. A friend of mine believes that it is possible to completely wipe out all corruption and venality in our society; to obtain a sustainable utopia model of society where everything is pristine. He and his idea are quixotic.

Martinet

A martinet is a very strict disciplinarian. He or she demands absolute conformity and adherence to rules and regulations with no flexibility, no room for tolerance. So if you have a teacher that won’t accept your homework to be written in anything other than pencil, she is a martinet. Or a boss who punctiliously cavils over trifling flaws; flaws that aren’t allowed in his book of rules. He is a martinet. Just like other words, martinet is coined after a French military officer named Martinet. He was (surprise!) a martinet.

There were about five more eponyms Dr.Q mentioned, but please pardon my limited memory. Those above are all I could remember.

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4 thoughts on “Dr.Q And Word Origins

  1. I love the idea that each word has a story of its origin and a story of how we get to know it. And the fact that we share these stories makes them even more beautiful and unforgettable.

    I know the word ”patron” long time ago when a friend of mine told me that he has a patron for his school work. The thing is that he was studying in an art school back then, and as far as I know, art school has a tradition that each freshman will be assigned a senior student, who will support him or her in their art projects, guide them through the learning. This senior student is called “patron” and the “patronee” is called “ne”. And when a “ne” becomes a senior student, they can become a patron of someone else. So, a student can simultaneously has a patron and a “ne”. And they all do their assignments together.

    When my friend told me that, it’s quite obvious this is not a Vietnamese term, so I asked for its spelling, but my friend actually didn’t know the real word. they just call each other /ba-trong/ without knowing the actual word. So I looked it up myself and found out Patron was a man in the ancient Rome who was healthy and very helpful to other people. Cool right?
    In English, a patron is one that protects, supports or a benefactor, a sponsor.

    Đề

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