TAKE MY WORD FOR IT by Vernon Pizer


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Whereas the Sarnoffs (younger non-fiction, above) sneak a little English-language history into their jauntily illustrated etymological potpourri, Pizer's accounts of eponyms are sheer diversion, but for an audience with more literate inclinations. Readers learn that the real McCoy was a boxer, that the man who first proposed the guillotine and was thus honored in its naming was a humanitarian physician, that the Swedish word for TV anchorman is cronkiter, and that a Civil War major general named Hooker has been dubiously memorialized because of his tolerance for camp-followers. We learn of the various theories of Frisbee historians, of Edgar Allan Poe's contribution to the search for the Lynch in lynching, and how one Ben Wenberg's pugnaciousness at Delmonico's ""got him alphabetized into second-class eponymic standing"" when the disgruntled management changed ""lobster Wenberg"" to ""lobster Newberg"" (later Newburg). A valiant effort to supply female eponyms sees Annie Oakley hauled in next to Queen Victoria; but then a chapter on military figures yields us the eponyms for raglan sleeves and cardigan sweaters (two officers in the same famed battle at Balaklava, which Pizer describes with some style), as well as the more predictable shrapnel, martinet, and chauvinism. For idle interests, ample reward.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1982
Publisher: Dodd, Mead