Eponymous

Today on a road trip from New York to Rhode Island we passed a store that makes and sells signs. Not surprisingly, the sign outside in front of the store was totally awesome. It makes sense, I said to my traveling companion, that a sign store would have a truly great sign out front.

And that got me thinking about eponymous things — things with a name that points back to the thing itself, in some intrinsic way. For example, an orange is named for its color (even if we need to dye it to make it true). A fly is named for the fact that it can fly.

For some reason, the words “giant” and “dwarf” don’t seem as elegant to me, but I’m not really sure why I think that. Maybe, like the word “smell” to describe an odor, they are too on the nose.

Is there perhaps some other quality that makes certain self-referential words, like “fly” or “orange”, seem amusing, but not other words, like “giant” or “dwarf”? I am open to suggestions.

One Response to “Eponymous”

  1. J. Peterson says:

    My favorite (heard on 99PI): silhouette, named after the French finance minister who was too cheap to commission full portraits, so he just had the outlines drawn.

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