On Eponyms, Kanye, and Book-Based Homicide


Living the life of a humanities student to the full, I was poring through some books in Hartley Library today, thinking of intricate ways to kill the guy opposite me who had decided that a silent library was a good place to have a loud phone call (after weighing the available options I concluded that bludgeoning him with a large tome from a nearby shelf presented a cost effective yet immediate solution, before you ask). Luckily for Johnny-talks-a-lot, my focus broke when a word on the page in front of me caught my eye: Machiavellian.

This exposes a brilliant example of an eponym, a person whose name has given rise to a certain word or phrase. To be Machiavellian refers to the cunning and devious behaviour which Niccolò Machiavelli advised in “The Prince”, which is either a masterful 16th century guide to life or an expensive piece of loo roll (the Daily Mail is much cheaper), depending on your opinion.

My bad, wrong Draco.
My bad, wrong Draco.

To take my mind off the imminent homicide on campus, I tried to think of a few more eponyms, and the eponymous adjectives which accompany them. There’s “Churchillian”, to describe someone who speaks in the style of Churchill. Or there’s “Draconian”, to refer to someone who enforces severe and harsh rules just like the Greek law scribe Draco. I’m a big fan of “Bowdlerisation”, the act of replacing rude words with asterisks and other symbols; yes, I’m talking about this f*@#ing thing. It’s named after a guy called Thomas Bowdler, who attempted to censor the cursing from Shakespeare in the nineteenth century to make it more family friendly.

And then there’s “Blairite”.

Wait, hold the bus, why does Tony get his own word? We talk of Thatcherite or Blairite behaviour, but why not Cameronian or Millibandese? It appears that there’s no clear answer as to why some people are immortalised in our language whilst others are left to slip into obscurity, or how long it takes for one to earn the right of an eponym. Are eponymous adjectives awarded posthumously? Do they reflect a life of greatness? Are some born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them? Enduring four rhetorical questions in a row just for a thinly veiled Snape reference isn’t the pay-off you wanted?

In the face of this uncertainty, and because I’m frankly a reckless ne’er-do-well who doesn’t play by the rules, I’d like to propose a few of my own eponyms to be adopted into the English language.

Kan-yeesian (adjective).

No one knows what it means, but it's provocative.
No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as much of a Kanye West fan as the next guy. In fact, I aspire to one day find a woman who’ll love me as much as Kanye West loves Kanye West. Despite this, it’s difficult to overlook the clangers dropped by the big KW in recent years, lines like “I am God’s vessel”, “I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it” and thought-provoking philosophical musings such as “any ladies in the house without a spouse? Something in your blouse got me feeling so aroused” (the latter being a lyric from “I Wander”). In light of this, I propose that “Kan-yeesian” be adopted to describe any form of arrogant, jaw-dropping behaviour or statement. Bonus points if it involves Fish Fil-A, I mean it’s what she ordered, after all.

Example:   Person A: “After consideration, I really think I might be a BNOC”

Person B: “Woah, mate, ease up on the Kan-yeesian talk”.

The trouble in Ukraine? Crimea river. It’s no trouble when you’re Vladimir Putin, just float like a butterfly, sting like a massive unmarked military incursion into a nearby nation.

Putin’d (verb).

The trouble in Ukraine? Crimea river. It’s no trouble when you’re Vladimir Putin, just float like a butterfly, sting like a massive unmarked military incursion into a nearby nation. It only seems fitting to have “Putin’d” reference a massive assault of some sort, but one which is 100% legal and allowed, and that’s the end of that discussion if you know what’s good for you. And if you like having oil.

Example:   Person A: “Man alive, that value lasagna absolutely Putin’d my digestive tract”.

Murdocking (verb).

Yep, it’s the man with the scruples and integrity of Lucifer himself, professional Mr. Burns lookalike and chairman of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch. When questioned a few years ago by the Leveson Inquiry regarding the phone hacking scandal surrounding News International, Murdoch conveniently had a sudden lapse of amnesia and forgot most of his meetings during the previous five years. Weird huh? I’m sure it’s probably nothing. In honour of this, I’d like to make “Murdocking” the act of forgetting everything to do with your previous whereabouts at a highly convenient time.

Example:   Housemate A: “When was the last time you cleaned the bathroom?”

Housemate B, Murdocking: “Wait, what? I don’t know. What’s a bathroom? Rebekah who?”

So now you know the world of the eponym, and I challenge you to make some of your own. Whilst you do that, I’ll come up with some sort of wry sign off to finish this article, but unfortunately I can’t think of such a Hanflingian quip. Admittedly, that Kan-yeesian talk is going to absolutely Millibandise my popularity.

Photo from Paul Bednall, http://paulrbednall.wix.com/photography
Photo from Paul Bednall, http://paulrbednall.wix.com/photography

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