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13-胡雯——English Words from Proper Names by accinent


									Feb. 2006, Volume 3, No.2 (Serial No.26)                                   Sino-US English Teaching, ISSN1539-8072,USA

                                  English Words from Proper Names

                                        Fanmao Meng*        Linyi Normal University

    Abstract: English has a large vocabulary. Many common words come from very different ways, among
which one way of forming words is from proper names. These proper names have nowadays become widely used.
They are well known to those who speak English.
    Key words: English words      familiar words  proper names

      1. Introduction

     There are various ways of forming words, among which the percentage of common words derived from
proper names is approximately 3%. They come from all sources, such as characters in literature, names of
scientists, politicians and statesmen, places, trademarks, television and motion pictures, and other sources.
     For example, the expression of “ Freudian slip”originated from the famous Austrian neuropathist, Sigmund
                                                     a                                    .
Freud. It may be considered as the short for “ Freudian slip of the tongue/pen” According to Freud, we
sometimes speak out or write out something we in fact have not expected to do just because of our subcons cious
                          ll                                  A
desire or ideology. I’ show you some examples: ¢Å young man saw a young and beautiful mother
breastfeeding her baby, and said “You certainly have a lovely breast” but he had wanted to express “You certainly
have a lovely baby” ¢ÆThe boss made a Freudian slip when he told his secretary he wanted to give her a
massage; he meant to say he wanted to give her a message; ¢ÇA good-temper husband said humbly and
submissively to his bad-tempered wife: “    t                                                     .
                                        Don’ be angry any more, my dear. How I abhor you, you know” In fact,
he had originally wanted to say: “   t
                                  Don’ be angry any more, my dear. How I adore you, you know”.

      2. English Words from a Variety of Proper Names

     2.1 Words from literature
     From the ancient Greek and Roman mythology, we get a Venus (which means a beauty), a Pygmalion (a
Pygmalion is a person who has re-molded someone else of different sex and then falls in love with her/him; or a
person who is deeply engrossed in his creative work), and an Oedipus (one who has great power to solve difficult
riddles). Many know the meanings of Achilles’                                                        s
                                               heel (a small but important weakness, esp. in a person’ character),
a son of Bacchus (meaning a drunkard), and Oedipus complex (in Chinese “      ¶íµÒÆÖ˹Çé½á    ” »ò“  Áµ¸¸/ÁµÄ¸Çé
     From the Bible, we get a Judas (meaning a traitor) and a Solomon (a man of virtue) and a Cain (a person who
is brutal and easily angered). A doubting Thomas, meaning a perpetual doubter, comes from the Bible, and David
and Jonathan, also from the Bible, meaning two bosom friends who go through thick and thin together.
     Many names of characters described by famous writers have become commonly used now. From
Shakespeare, we get a Shylock (an unmerciful person or businessman) and a Benedict (a man who has kept to

   Fanmao Meng, male, associate professor of Foreign Language School, Linyi Normal University; Research field: cognitive
linguistics; Address: Foreign Language School, Linyi Normal University, Linyi, Shandong Province, P.R. China; Postcode: 276005.

                                         English Words from Proper Names

celibacy and recently got married). Gulliver’ Travels, the famous satire by Swift, gives us lilliputian, meaning
very small. The name of the miserly money --- lender Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol by Dickens gives
                                     a        .
us the word scrooge, meaning “ miser” Both an Uncle Tom, referring to a person who is servile and
contemptible, and a Simon Legree, speaking about an unmerciful taskmaster are names of characters from Uncle
Tom’ Cabin. A more modern example of a literary name that has passed into the ordinary language is Walter
Mitty (the hero of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James G. Thurbe), nickname for a common-place
unadventurous person who seeks to escape from reality through daydreaming and typically imagines himself
leading a glamorous life and becoming famous. A Don Juan (It has the same meaning as a Casanova, an Italian
writer) meaning a philanderer, originates from the Spanish legend, whereas a Don Quixote, from Don Quixote
written by Cervantes, is an imaginative idealist or a chivalrous person. And a Sherlock Holmes from writings of
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the famous private detective and has become commonly used in English language. Now,
any one who has great ability of reasoning in cracking a criminal case may be nicknamed Holmes.
      2.2 Words from the names of scientists
      The names of many scientists have been used in the particular fields of study in which they were
distinguished. The terms for the chief units of electric energy --- watt, volt, ohm and ampere are from the names of
four distinguished 18th-century scientists: an Englishman, James Watt; an Italian, Alessandro Volta; a German,
George Ohm; and a Frenchman, Andre Ampere. This process of using the names of scientists to denote what they
invented or discovered later became deliberate. For instance, hertz, a unit of frequency equal to one cycle per
second, is named after H.R. Hertz, an eminent German physicist. Pasteurize, meaning to destroy germs and check
fermentation in milk, beer or wine by the use of high temperature, comes from name of Louis Pasteur, the famous
French chemist and the father of modern bacteriology. Curie, the unit of radioactivity is adopted in honor of
Madame Curie who had devoted herself to abstracting radium. X-ray is also called Rontgen ray in memory of a
German scientist who first discovered it. It is common knowledge that Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Bernhard
Nobel, a Swedish inventor of dynamite who established the awards.
      2.3 Words from the names of politicians and statesmen
      As everyone knows, Marxism is from Karl Marx. A few other politicians and statesmen have also handed
down their names not only to history books but also to dictionaries. Nicotine, a poisonous alkaloid found in
tobacco leaves, is named after Jean Nicot, a French diplomat who introduced tobacco into France in the 16th
century. John Hancock, meaning one’ signature, comes from John Hancock, one of the American revolutionary
leaders, who was the first to sign his name on the Declaration of Independence, and who did so in bold and legible
letters. If you ask any American to put his John Hancock (or John Henry) on a piece of paper, he quickly
understands you are asking him to sign his name.
      Recent examples are quisling and McCarthyism. Quisling comes from the name of a Norwegian army officer,
V                                             i
  .A.I.Quisling, who helped the Germans nvade his own country. He yielded to the German occupation and
became the head of a puppet state from 1940 to 1945. The word quisling is defined as a person who cooperates
with the authorities of an enemy country who are occupying his country. Whereas, McCarthyism, derived from the
name of a US Senator J.R.Mccarthy, means “       policy of hunting out (suspected) Communists and removing them
esp. from Government department” McCathy was closely associated with this notorious policy.
      2.4 Words from the names of places
      There are some words derived from the names of places. Examples are as follows: china, meaning fine
semi-transparent or white earthenware, porcelain, originally imported from China; japan, meaning a hard varnish,

                                         English Words from Proper Names

esp. kind brought originally from Japan; champagne, referring to a sparkling white wine made in the region of
Champagne, France.
      A few medical words born of names of places where some illnesses were first discovered: Sichuan flu
(China), Lyme disease (America), and Pontiac fever (US). Recent examples are a          -go-go from Whisky a Gogo,
cafe and discotheque in Paris, meaning a night club for dancing with live or recorded pop music; Berlin Wall
which is defined as a barrier preventing communication, esp. the free flow of information. “ Dutch”means
“                  s
 (each) pay one’ own way” “                s
                               ; meet one’ Waterloo”means “      meet a crushing defeat” .
      Probably the most famous proper name to emerge during the 1970’ is Watergate, originally the name of a
building complex in Washington, D.C. The word was first associated with the scandal following the break-in at
the Democratic National Committee headquarters there in 1972. Watergate now means a scandal usually involving
abuses of office, skullduggery and a cover -up. It has produced various derivatives like Watergater, Watergatish and
      2.5 Words from trademarks
      In a similar way, some trademarks become common words. Examples are shampoo, Kodak, Xerox, Kleenex
and Vaseline; and Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Buick, Austin, Fiat, Volkswagen, Toyota and Andi which are various
brands of cars.
      Another new coinage is Mr. Clean from the trademark of a liquid cleaner, referring to a person of impeccable
morals or reputation, esp. a politician or other public figure regarded as incorruptible.
      2.6 Words from TV films and movies
      An example is Archie Bunker, coming from the name of a television character in the comedy series All in the
Family, means a type of working-class man who often reacts to social pressures in a bigoted and self-righteous
      Strangelove is from the motion pic ture Dr. Strangelove about a mad military nuclear-war strategist. Hence the
word is defined as a militarist who plans or urges large-scale nuclear warfare and destruction.
      2.7 Words from the common names of persons
      Still, quite hosts of our familiar words are derived from other sources, in particular from the common names
of persons. For instance, Disney and MacDonald have become widely known household words. Some common
words come from the leaders of their countries: Bushism, meaning an incongruous, illogical, indiscreet, or gauche
remark by US President George Bush; Reaganomics, the economic policies of tax cutting and deficit spending
enunciated by US President Ronald Reagan; Gorbymania, meaning extreme public enthusiasm for USSR
President Mikhail Gorbachev, esp. as manifested by crowds gathering in the streets to greet him.
      In fact, there are many words from very common names of persons. Everyone knows what “            Tom boy”(or
tomboy) and “    Susan girl”(or susangirl) really mean; the former means a spirited young girl who enjoys rough and
noisy activities, while the latter is a boy who behaves just like a girl. “ plain Jane”is an ordinary-looking girl,
and “ dumb Dora”is a stupid woman/girl. “                                                                 a
                                                  Every Tom, Dick and Harry”means everybody, and “ Dear John
letter”refers to a farewell letter. “ rob Peter to pay Paul”means to fill in one minus by creating another. As is
known to all, “Uncle Sam”is the United States of America, whereas “       John Bull”is the personification of England
or the typical Englishman. And “ john”is a toilet in the U.S., since there is always a boy named John wherever
you go, just as there is always a toilet.

     3. Conclusion

                                             English Words from Proper Names

     So by reading these parts, we of course reach the conclusion that many English words are derived from
proper names. English has been incessantly developing, and the English vocabulary is being tremendously
enlarged. No wonder that English, as the most widely used language in the world, has the most considerable
number of words --- word-formation of this way is one factor.

     1. Adams, Valeria. An Introduction to Modern English Word-formation. London: Longman. 1982.
     2. Bauer, Laurie. English Word-formation. London: Cambridge University Press. 1983.
     3. Chuangui Ge. Practical English Lexicology. Liaoning: Liaoning People’ Press. 1983.
     4. Marckwardt, Albert H.. American English. New York: Oxford University Press. 1980.
     5. Seidensticker, Edward G.. Modern American Colloquialisms. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. 1995.
     6. Wesley, Addison. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Beijing: The Commercial Press. 2001.
     7. Yunfei Zhang. An Introduction to Modern English Lexicology. Beijing: Beijing Teachers University Press. 1998.
     8. Zgusta, L.. A Manul of Lexicography. Prague: Publishing House of Czechoslovek Academy of Sciences. 1971.

                                                                                 (Edited by Nina Liu, Xiao Li and Wendy)


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