Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"What's In A Name - A Continuing Investigation"

This previously explored arena returned to mind while I was listening to the book Waterloo on CD and was truly astonished by the mention of the name:  Henry Shrapnel.

Did you know the artillery device that blows up propelling pointy fragments of metal into enemy soldiers was named after an actual, living person?  (Well not now, but once.)  I didn’t.  When I discovered that on the CD, I was genuinely surprised.

Although not that surprised.  I have long insisted that countless devices, descriptives and recognizable behaviors derive from surnames of the people who originally popularized them, though, over time, we have totally forgotten those connections.  Back-Patting Acknowledgment:  I was at the absolute forefront of bringing this curious phenomenon to light.  It’s a verifiable certitude.  “At the forefront” – heck!  I am so “ahead of the curve” here I do not even have followers!

It’s like nobody believes me.  Sometimes I don’t even believe myself.  Though no reputed peddler of foolishness, my allegations seem precariously untenable.  Then I hear “Henry Shrapnel” (1761-1842) in an authoritative history book on CD, and I go: 

Say “nay” all you want, naysayers.  I am definitely on to something!

The following words have no Latin or Germanic origins, or any other philological genesis.  They appear to come out of nowhere.  Encouraging the question:

Could these words – as with Henry Shrapnel – have their roots in legitimate surnames?

Consider the following.  And please reserve your opprobrium; you may easily be mistaken, and consequently publicly embarrassed.  I mean, be honest.  Before I told you, did you have any idea shrapnel was named after an actual person?  I just thought it was stuff they dug out of your body after the battle, or stayed in there because they could not get it out without killing you and after that you could not go through “Security” at airports without triggering alarms.

Anyway, here we go.  Words in regular usage derived from actual people’s surnames:

Clamp your hands tightly over your ears around Belinda Caterwaul.

Whenever he sang, his voice broke.  His now-famous moniker:

Randy Yodel.

Warning:  Avoid engaging in debate with Natalie Nitpicker.

A traditional head covering:  Due to incipient hair loss, delicate skin or “decorative fashion statement”?  Nobody knows. 

Except Katherine Bonnet.

People were inevitably drenched going outside in a downpour.  Not anymore.  Thanks to Hermione Bumbershoot.

All hail to Jeremy Happenstance, who went home from the hospital with the wrong family, meeting his actual family at a soccer game, which he attended after ordering football tickets from a website and receiving soccer tickets by mistake.

Another “Big Noise” on the battlefield – Wolfgang Howitzer.  (This one may be inadvertently correct.  Maybe not the “Wolfgang.”)

This guy… what’s his name?  Invented devices for remembering things?  Let’s see, now… tonic… ironic… oh yeah!

Kenny Mnemonic.

In the form of a question:

“‘Boats and Baseball’ for eight hundred, Alex.”

“He carved out half a tree trunk and floated it on water.”

“Who was Robinson Canoe?”


“‘Boats And Baseball’ for a thousand.”

“No more propelling Canoe’s canoe with cupped fingertips.” 

“Who was Mickey Paddle?”  (A questionable assertion, both historically and comedically.)

“No belts or suspenders for me, thank you,” proclaims the ultimate loser in the pants-tightening sweepstakes, Horatio Cummerbund.  (Permanent belt loops put him essentially into receivership, his device vestigially visible only at weddings, honorarial dinners, and certain awards ceremonies.)

Like Indians protesting the Washington Redskins, a species of furry animals is struggling to reclaim its reputation, sullied by the sleazy shenanigans of Anthony Weasel. 

(An earlier outing covered the Irish origins of “Shenanigan.”  Investigations remain ongoing at this juncture concerning Gregory Sleazy.)

He kept us from stepping in expectorant.  Raise an appreciative tankard to Vernon Spittoon.

Notorious picky eater, Thomas Finicky.

And last but not least, there is Jeremiah Bamboozle.  Though that may not actually be his name.   (Get it?)

I conclude my third or possibly fourth visitation to this arena acknowledging that my collective accumulation does not purport to be all-inclusive.

Got any familiar “name-words” of your own?

Send them along and I shall happily append them to the list.

If they are not transparently made up.

1 comment:

Frank said...

Coincidentally, I also discovered Mr. Shrapnel recently although, my memory's so fragmented, I can't recall where I read it. While my father was winning WWII, he was wounded 3 times, and lived the rest of his life with Henry in his back.

I like Howitzer, but I think it was his brother, Wolfbang - who gifted the family name to the big gun.