Friday, June 27, 2014

"Behaviorally Descriptive Surnames That Have Entered Our Common Parlance"

I have written earlier incarnations of this post on two previous occasions, and on both those occasions, my title for those posts was enormously more interesting than this one.  The reason this isn’t “Those Previous Posts – Part Three” is that I can no longer remember what I called the other two posts, and, like a word you cannot look up in the dictionary without being able to spell it – in which case you would not have to look it up in the dictionary – I cannot access the previous titles without remembering what they were. 

There is something wrong with that system. 

Anyway, apologies for the ponderous title – which I am also sure not to remember, though it will be no great loss – and away we go.
Here’s what I’m talking about.

The word “mesmerize” derives originally from the surname of an actual person, Franz Anton Mesmer, who developed the principle of “animal magnetism”, a principle later applied to hypnosis. 

You get the concept?  You feel “mesmerized”, because the process in question was developed by Mesmer.  If it had been developed by me, you’d feel “Pomerized.” 

There are hundreds of these examples, names of people, as my ponderous title proclaims, becoming words used in everyday common parlance – the word standing for the name, the name reflecting a certain specifically associated behavior. 

Some well known examples:

Civil War Ambrose Burnside, who favored the “Muttonchops” facial decorations, has left us the word “sideburns.”  (Evidence suggesting that Burnside may have been dyslexic.)

Not to be outdone, another Civil War general, “Fightin’ Joe Hooker”, although he may not have originated the term, “Fightin’ Joe” was famous for his army camp soirees, at which what they called then “fallen doves” were conspicuously featured.  So now we have “hookers.”  (And thankfully not sex-for-money-providing “Earlers.”)

The thing is, with the passage of time, an inevitable “disconnect” has arisen between these now commonly used words and their original surnamal derivations.  We use the words, but we no longer recall where they came from.

Fortunately, there’s me.

My painstaking research has uncovered yet a third round of these forgotten connections – evocative surnames that have become words that we now use every day.  Maybe not every day, but at least we know them.  Although not where they came from.  Which I shall momentarily correct.

Prepare to be both illuminated and delighted.

Starting now.

Tom Squash

Sat on a puppy, and that’s all it took.  Admitted Squash, famously hungry for immortality, “I am sorry about the puppy.  But if I had sat on a pillow, I would never have been remembered.”

Cornelia Kerfuffle

Was continually embroiled in contentious disputes, inevitably worsened when she was joined by her partner in controversy, Aloysius Hullaballoo.  (See Also:  Frank Squabble.)

Lifelong friends,

Anabelle Dribble and Stephanie Drool,

Tired of hearing, “You’ve got something running down your chin”, consorted exclusively with each other.  Incredibly, the two women grew up in the seaside community of Spittlefield, England.  (Though that may possibly be a joke.)   

(See Also Re: Anatomical Embarrassments – Adrian Booger and Samantha Snot.)

Herbert Stickler

Never met a nit that was too small to pick.  (I am certain he would have trouble with that sentence.)

Elmer Thud

Made an identifiable sound whenever he fell out of a window, which he did more often than one might reasonably predict.  Hence, the well-known the descriptive, “He landed with a Thud.”  Now you know. 

For more than a quarter of a century, Richard Heckler was banned from every comedy club in Germany.  His unwelcome interruptions were finally curtailed when he was forced to come up on stage and “See how you like it!”, after which he restricted his outings to jazz clubs, where he heckled the musicians.

Lorenzo Happenstance turned up at many momentous historical events, claiming always that he was simply passing by.

Larry Hobo

Lived at no specifically known address.

In her day, you could not go to a party without running into

Alexandra Hobnob.

As far as we know,

William Hackney

Never made a single interesting speech.

(Ditto:  Theodora Drivel.)

Real estate values plummeted whenever Cornelius Ramshackle moved nearby.

Albert Hunker

Claimed he preferred the low crouch to actually sitting on a chair.

Women learned to forget about marriage around

Gustaf Philander.

(See Also:  Giacomo Casanova and {First Name: Unknown) Lothario {unless Lothario was his first name, in which case, Last Name:  Unknown.)  Apparently, we have always had these scalawags.)

Sir Francis Hoodwink

Fooled people into believing that he had actually been knighted.

Are there any further such examples?  I always think I’m done, and then I inevitably find more.

How about you? 

Got any surnames that became words?

As the Headmaster of the English school I once taught in used to say:

“A bucket of tar for the winner.”

1 comment:

angel said...

Here they are. I queried Burnside, by the way. When you do part 4, you will be able to go back to the others.