Who wears it better, Cardigan or Leotard?

Thanks to Bồ’s suggestion in the previous post on word origin, Đề was inspired to write more on interesting eponyms.


This word originates from the surname of a German physician, Franz Anton Mesmer. Born in Germany in 1733, Mesmer studied medicine and practiced hypnotize to cure patients. His career was associated with the theory of Animal Magnetism, from which the hypnosis technique was derived from. The term Mesmerism was first used by his pupil to indicate his practice of hypnotizing patients. The term now no longer limits its meaning to hypnosis, but it’s more about fascinating someone or holding them spellbound. 


Also comes from the surname of another scholar from the late 17th century, Luigi Galvani, but instead of putting people into motionless state as mesmerize does, galvanize is to shock people and urge them to do carry out some action. This scientist did an experiment in which he ran an electric current through a dead frog ( I wonder where he got such idea to play with). He noticed that electricity made the frog’s legs twitch. Today, Galvanize  has nothing to do with electricity, at least not literally.


Another person that made his name into an eponym is a 18th century French acrobat. This man, whose full name was Jules Leotard, developed the art of trapeze and was credited for popularizing the flexible one-piece body-tight gym wear that fits the safety and agility requirements of the sport. 


Fashionista or not, you might have one of this in your house, a sweater with buttons in the front. This piece of clothing was named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, a British Army Major General. His fame for winning in war battle resulted in the popularity of this garment that were worn by British army. The term was first used to describe the knitted sleeveless vest, but now it refers to sweater which hangs open in the front, sometimes with buttons, sometimes not.


The story behind this word also relates to a military officer. The man whose name lives on not for his victory, but for his betrayal to his own country was Vidkun Quisling. During World War 2, he collaborated with Germany and became the insider that the Nazi needed to take over Norway. A quisling is a traitor or a collaborationist who works for enemy force against his side.


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…


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…


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.


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.


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.