Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words

Overview

An encyclopedia of linguistic biographies: the witty, illustrated stories of the Earl of Sandwich, Charles Boycott, and other historical figures better known as words than people.

Eponymous, adj. Giving one’s name to a person, place, or thing.

Anonymous, adj. Anonymous.

Anonyponymous, adj. Anonymous and eponymous.

The Earl of Sandwich, fond of salted beef and paired slices of...

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Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words

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Overview

An encyclopedia of linguistic biographies: the witty, illustrated stories of the Earl of Sandwich, Charles Boycott, and other historical figures better known as words than people.

Eponymous, adj. Giving one’s name to a person, place, or thing.

Anonymous, adj. Anonymous.

Anonyponymous, adj. Anonymous and eponymous.

The Earl of Sandwich, fond of salted beef and paired slices of toast, found a novel way to eat them all together. Etienne de Silhouette, a former French finance minister, was so notoriously cheap that his name became a byword for chintzy practices—such as substituting a darkened outline for a proper painted portrait. Both bequeathed their names to the language, but neither man is remembered.

In this clever and funny book, John Bemelmans Marciano illuminates the lives of these anonyponymous persons. A kind of encyclopedia of linguistic biographies, the book is arranged alphabetically, giving the stories of everyone from Abu “algorithm” Al-Khwarizmi to Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Along with them you'll find the likes of Harry Shrapnel, Joseph-Ignace Guillotine, and many other people whose vernacular legacies have long outlived their memory.

Accented by amusing line portraits and short etymological essays on subjects like “superhero eponyms,” Anonyponymous is both a compendium of trivia and a window into the fascinating world of etymology. Carefully curated and unfailingly witty, this book is both a fantastic gift for language lovers and a true pleasure to read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596916531
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 633,049
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Bemelmans Marciano is the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, creator of the beloved Madeline children's books. He is the author and illustrator of several children's books, including Madeline and the Cats of Rome, Harold’s Tale, and Delilah, as well as the illustrated biography Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline's Creator. An artist and self-professed word geek, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two cats.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    Fun book!

    This is a great book to pick up when you only have 5-10 minutes to take a break from whatever you're doing. Open to any page, read a few entries, and learn something new about words you use every day!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    Word geeks/nerds: Take note!

    I heard a radio program where this author was being interviewed. I thought this sounded like an interesting book to read, so I ordered it. I really liked it! It's an easy read, very informative, many tidbits of obscure information. I only gave the book 3 stars on usefulness and relevance because the information is trivia; however, this in no way diminishes the entertainment value. I thoroughly enjoyed every entry and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about popular word origins.

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  • Posted December 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A fun read for lovers of the English language

    I enjoyed reading this witty compendium of the forgotten people behind some of the words in our language. Marciano writes brief, entertaining entries on the people behind the words and how their names became words to begin with. He uses a variety of contemporary allusions to add interest and humor to his entries. It's one of those books that one can either finish quickly, or nibble at when free time appears, such as waiting in line or using the bathroom. If you are looking for scholarship, this isn't the book you want--that much should be obvious. But if you want a light, humorously intellectual read, this is a good book to consider.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2010

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