They Didn't Exist
When I did the research for the first Name's Familiar book, I
stopped reading whenever I discovered a familiar phrase or company name
did not derive from a real person. After the book came out, however, I
learned that people were curious about the origins of some of the names.
This time around, I have included their stories. This chapter is obviously
not a comprehensive guide to things that are not named for people.
Tommy Atkins is a nickname given to the average, low-ranking British
soldier. The expression does not refer to any real individual of that name
but to an 1815 manual that the British War Office issued to military personnel.
Each solder had to enter his name, age, medals and honors in the manual.
To demonstrate the proper procedure, there were examples completed by a
fictitious soldier "Thomas Atkins." The soldiers began to refer to the
manuals as "Tommy Atkins," and the name eventually was applied to the new
She is controversial, stereotypical and she has made an indelible mark
on the American psyche. Of all the figures I have been asked about while
speaking about The Name's Familiar, none has come up more frequently
than Aunt Jemima. Aunt Jemima was not a real person. She owes her name
to a minstrel song, "Old Aunt Jemima," popularized in 1870 by singer Billy
Kersands. Later, a well-known vaudeville team Baker and Farrell made a
song called "Aunt Jemima" part of their act. This was the version that
newspaper man Charles Rutt of St. Joseph, Missouri heard. Rutt had come
up with the idea of self-rising pancake mix and he experimented with various
combinations of ingredients. The result-- the first pancake mix on the
market-- was packaged in plain brown sacks at first. When Baker and Farrell
passed through town, however, the song Aunt Jemima was on everyone's mind.
Rutt created an entire character for his new "spokeswoman." The dark-skinned
woman with the red kerchief on her head had been a Louisiana plantation
cook, the story went. She became known throughout the area for her wonderful
pancakes but she would not share her secret recipe with anyone but the
Davis Mills Flour Company. Aunt Jemima was, in the words of author Phil
Patton "one of the most problematic and profound icons of American culture:
Mammy... She remains in myth and memory, the most positive and yet most
dangerous of all racial stereotypes. Sambo is no longer acceptable, but
Aunt Jemima remains on the pancake mix box." At the turn of the last century,
such figures were commonplace in advertising. Since most products short
lived, the companies that used Aunt Jemima-like figures are not around
today. Aunt Jemima, however, was a stunning success, thanks largely to
aggressive marketing. At the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago,
Davis mills constructed the world's largest flour barrel, 12 feet across,
14 feet long and 16 feet in diameter. Inside the barrel there were displays.
Outside was Nancy Green, hired to personify Aunt Jemima. Born in Montgomery
County, Kentucky, Green had moved to Chicago where she worked as a cook
and nurse for a judge's family. As the story goes, her specialty had, coincidentally
been pancakes. At the exposition, she demonstrated the mix, serving more
than a million pancakes by the time the event closed. More than 50,000
orders for Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix were placed that day. Green stayed with
Davis Milling for many years, touring and personifying the Aunt Jemima
trademark. She died in 1923 at the age of 89, the victim of an automobile
accident. By then, the name Aunt Jemima had become familiar to people in
every state in the nation. The marketing department added other characters
to help sell the mix. Jemima was given a male counterpart-- Uncle Mose.
Customers could redeem coupons and box tops for matching Aunt Jemima and
Uncle Mose salt and pepper shakers, and assorted kitchen utensils and toys.
In 1925 Davis Mills sold the brand to Quaker Oats. Attitudes towards "Mammy"
have changed significantly in America since those days. Quaker is now the
owner of a brand whose icon is loved by some, reviled by others but who
is undoubtedly one of the most famous advertising figures in the country.
The company is not a stranger to controversial advertising icons. The Quaker
Oats man, on of the first trademarks for packaged foods, was opposed from
the start by the real Quakers, the Society of Friends. They were unsuccessful
in their attempt to get Congress to prohibit manufacturers from using the
name of a religious denomination on a product. (If you'd like to sell Methodist
Waffles or Catholic Bran Flakes, for example, you are free to do so.) In
1989, after five months of research, Quaker unveiled a new Aunt Jemima-
she was thinner, lighter and she had lost the rag that she had worn on
her head. Quaker said they wished to "present Aunt Jemima in a more contemporary
light, while preserving the important attributes of warmth, quality, good
taste, heritage and reliability." The Aunt Jemima brand now co-sponsors
a program honoring black women community leaders in cooperation with the
National Council of Negro Women. The old Aunt Jemima products have become
valuable collector's items. There are organizations, shops and newsletters
devoted to the hobby. According to the president of Black Ethnic Collectibles,
Inc., about 70% of the collectors are African-American. Such notables as
Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg share the hobby. The collectors
say they keep the material so this part of history will not be forgotten
or rewritten. As for some of the other African-American advertising icons,
the folks at Uncle Ben's claim that he was a real person. (See entry under
familiar names) The Cream of Wheat chef may have been modeled after a real
man as well. Company lore says that he was a waiter in a Chicago restaurant
where he was noticed by one of the company founders: "The fine appearance
and features of the waiter seemed especially appropriate for a wholesome,
and then, new cereal. It is believed that the chef was in his thirties
when the photograph was taken around 1900. The passage of many years has
eliminated virtually all records of the original model, his name, or background."
The Beatrice food conglomerate was not named for a woman, but a city.
Although he didn't know it at the time, finding himself out of work at
the age of 29 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for George Haskell.
In the early 1890s, his employer, the Fremont, Nebraska, Butter & Egg
Company went bankrupt and all its employees were forced to look for work.
Haskell had put aside a little money while he was working, so in 1894,
he was able to pool his resources with William W. Bosworth, another worker
who had been left high and dry when the company went belly up. The pair
decided to buy the branch of the company that had formerly employed Bosworth.
It was located in Beatrice, Nebraska. They were also able to lease the
plant of another company that had failed, the Beatrice Creamery Company
in Beatrice. After a short time in the creamery business they were able
to buy another branch in Lincoln. Until 1899 the products from Lincoln
were labeled "Lincoln Brand." That year, however, they decided it would
be less confusing to give all their operations one name and they settled
upon "Beatrice Creamery Company." In the early 1900s the company expanded
quickly. They bought plants in Iowa, Oklahoma City, OK, Chicago IL, and
Pueblo CO, and by 1910, the company was operating nine creameries and three
ice plants and had sales branches across the country. They moved their
headquarters to the more central Chicago in 1913 but the name Beatrice
Apple Brown Betty is one of the nation's oldest desserts. Varying accounts
say the dish arrived on our shores with the Mayflower; others say it didn't
show up until the late 1800s. In any case, if there was a real Betty who
first concocted a mixture of fruit layered with bread crumbs, her identity
has been forever lost in time. Many culinary historians believe the dessert
was an Americanized version of the German dessert apple charlotte which
was, in turn, adapted from an earlier dessert called fruit Charlotte. Charlotte
was not a real person either. Charlotte Bugg was a fictional character
in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers or The Sorrows
of Young Werther. The popular novel told the story of a gifted young man
who is destroyed by his hopeless passion for Charlotte.
You may have read stories in the catalog about Josiah Crew, a turn-of-the-century
purveyor of the finest sporting goods, and supposedly the founder of the
J. Crew company. The truth is, however, J. Crew never existed. In 1983,
the true founder of J. Crew, Emily Woods joined her father Arthur Cinader's
company Popular Services, which had, in turn, been founded by his father
fin the 1940s. As a girl, Woods had gone to boarding school in Michigan
and spent her summers on Nantucket and Christmas in Colorado. Armed with
a degree in marketing from the University of Denver, Woods liked to wear
simple, outdoorsy clothing but found then hard to come by in local shopping
malls. So she created a slim catalog with the kind of clothes she liked
to wear. Her father served as her inspiration for designing the men's line.
"The bicolor anorak," she told Forbes Magazine, "was the anorak he was
wearing when he met Mom skiing in Switzerland. My father has great style.
He wears out his clothes completely- -his shirts have fringed necks, his
belts are always on their last legs, and his pants are always worn out.
But he always looks great, and he gave me a lot of the feel for creating
the first weathered chino and weathered belts. A lot of my inspiration
comes from Dad's style." And J. Crew? A company spokesperson says it comes
from crewing, "which is a sport that fits into the J. Crew lifestyle, and
J. just sounded good in front of it."
Who was the Denny behind the Denny's restaurant chain? There was none.
"All I can tell you is that Denny's started as a donut shop called Danny's
Donuts," said a Denny's spokesperson in 1997. "So the real question is
who was Danny?" The truth was revealed a year later when the company founder,
Harold Butler passed away. According to Butler's obituary, he chose the
name Danny's because it was a popular name, but customers confused it with
another chain so he changed it to Denny's. In case you were wondering,
in 1997, Denny's restaurants served approximately: 267,000,000 eggs, 140,000,000
pancakes, 15,500,000 pounds of bacon, 13,100,000 pounds of sausage, 8,600,000
pounds of hashed browns and 401,000,000 cups of coffee- 85% regular, 15%
Lorna Doone cookies were named for the 1869 Richard Doddridge Blackmore
novel of the same name. The National Biscuit Company- Nabisco for short-
introduced the cookies in 1912, the same year it released another cookie,
the Oreo. As ubiquitous as Oreos have become, modern day consumers might
suspect that Hydrox cookies were created to imitate them. In fact, the
opposite is true. The Oreo was Nabisco's answer to the Hydrox "biscuit
bonbon" which was introduced in 1910. The Oreo biscuit was designed by
William Turner, who stayed with Nabisco until his retirement in 1973. And
where did the name Oreo come from? There are several theories. The first
is that the company used "RE" from the word creme and sandwiched it between
two "O"s which either came from the shape of the cookie, or from the word
"chocolate." Or, the name might have come from the French word "OR", meaning
"gold," a color used in the early packaging. Finally, some say the word
comes from a Greek word, "Oreo", which means mountain. The idea here is
that the first Oreos may have been hill shaped. If it seems surprising
that no one knows for sure, remember that the Oreo was one of many new
products launched that year. Two other new cookies were Mother Goose and
Veronese biscuits. No one knew then which product would be the best seller.
In fact, Oreo was listed third in a company memo about the new cookies
coming out in April 1912. The Oreo biscuit was described as "two beautifully
embossed, chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling." The other
offerings were described as "rich, high class" and "delicious." Nabisco
estimates it has manufactured more than 200 billion Oreos since then. Trivia
question for cookie fans: What was the name of The National Biscuit Company's
first product? A: It was called Uneeda Biscuit and was introduced in 1898.
Both the Oscar and Tony awards take their names from real people. Oscar
was named for Oscar Pierce, whose niece Margaret Herrick worked as a librarian
at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She thought the statue
looked like her uncle Oscar and the name stuck. The Tony was named for
actress and philanthropist Antoinette Perry. The Academy of Television
Arts and Sciences' Emmy award, however, was not named for anyone. The Academy
already had a statue when they started searching for just the right name.
She might have been called "Ike," the nickname for the television iconoscope
tube, if ATAS founder Syd Cassyd had his way. But other Academy members
thought the name was too reminiscent of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Television
engineer Harry Lubcke suggested "Immy," a term commonly used for the early
image orthicon camera. This was the name they chose. "Immy" was used for
a number of years, until Academy members changed it to Emmy, which sounded
more like a woman's name. Although her name was a fabrication, Emmy did
take her form from a real woman. Louis McManus, another television engineer,
designed her image using his wife as a model. McManus design was accepted
after 47 proposals had been rejected. To symbolize the art and science
of television, McManus created a winged woman holding an atom. The wings
represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science. The statuettes
weigh four and three-quarter pounds and are made of copper, nickel, silver,
and gold. Each one takes five and one-half hours to make and is handled
with white gloves so as to leave no fingerprints. They are crafted by The
R.S. Owens company in Chicago which also makes the Oscars.
Like television's Emmy Award, the Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences
Grammy Award was named for technology, not a person. The trophy, itself,
is in the shape of the machine that gave the award its name- the gramophone.
The word "gramophone" began its life as a patented trade name spelled with
a capital "G." What was different about this recording machine, invented
by Emile Berliner, a German immigrant, was that it used discs rather than
cylinders. Cylindrical recording devices were known at that time as phonograms,
for "writing sound." Berliner decided to simply transpose the syllables.
Thomas Edison's "Phonograph," incidentally, was also once a trade name.
In 1901, one gramophone maker, the Consolidated Talking Mahcine Company
was sued by Frank Seaman, manufacturer of a machine he called the Zonophone.
Seaman argued Consolidated Talking Machine did not have the right to use
the word on its products. The company was briefly enjoined from using "gramophone,"
a decision that was later reversed. In the meantime, the company came up
for a new name for its product. It was redubbed the "Victor Talking Machine."
(Victor in this case referred to a "champion," not an individual by that
name) In 1906, Victor produced a record player that could double as an
elegant piece of furniture. It was called the "Victrola." In 1910 the British
Gramophone Company lost the right to trademark its name when the courts
ruled that "gramophone" was so commonly used as to be a generic. The Gramphone
Company merged with another gramophone maker, Columbia Gramophone Company,
to form Electrical and Musical Industries or EMI.
Born on New York City's Lower East Side, the son of a Socialist Labor
party member, Armand Hammer was named after a character in Dumas's Camille.
He earned a medical degree at Columbia in 1921. Next he traveled to the
Soviet Union where he remained for nine years, representing dozens of U.S.
companies. Then, back in the United States, he became CEO of Occidental
Petroleum, which he helped build into the U.S.'s 16th largest industrial
corporation. He was wealthy enough to own his own Boeing 727 and he gave
large gifts to charities and institutions. With a name like Armand Hammer,
many Americans assume he made his fortune in baking soda and that Arm &
Hammer was a play on his name. Untrue. The name Arm & Hammer dates
back to the mid-1800s. A man named James A. Church owned the Vulcan Spice
Mill in Brooklyn, New York. To represent Vulcan, the hammer-wielding god
of metal working, Church created a sign bearing an arm and hammer. The
spices never sold well, and in 1867, Church was forced to close up shop.
He kept the sign and took it with him when he opened a new firm with a
new product- baking soda. Even though there was no longer any logic to
the sign, Church & Company had it hanging over the door. One day as
Church was sitting back, looking at the sign, it occurred to him that the
arm of Vulcan could just as easily stand for the power of baking soda in
cleaning and leavening baked goods. He printed the symbol on the baking
soda bags and the rest is history. Armand Hammer got so tired of people
asking him about baking soda that he tried to buy the company. The owners,
Church & Dwight, were not selling, but Hammer did buy into the company
in 1986. Church & Dwight received a 50% share in a potassium-carbonate
plant owned by Hammer's Occidental Petroleum. In exchange, Hammer's company
acquired 5% of Church & Dwight's common stock, worth about $13.3 million,
plus $5.3 million in cash and a seat on the Princeton company's board.
John and Jack
As the most common English man's name since the Middle Ages, John, along
with its nickname Jack, can be found in hundreds of expressions. The only
individuals they refer to are John Doe or John Q. Public ie a generic man.
Examples are johnny-come-lately and Johnny Reb for a Confederate soldier.
Jack is generally used to refer to the male of a species, thus jackass
and jackdaw. The jackrabbit is said to have gotten its name because it
has ears resembling a jackass. Then there are things that, in the words
of the Oxford English Dictionary "in some way take the place of a lad or
man, or save human labor." Examples are jackhammer, jackknife, jacklight,
jackboot and the jack that props up an automobile. Crackerjack, flapjack
and jack-o'-lantern also refer to the generic Jack. Applejack, brandy
derived from apple cider, was not invented by a person named Jack. It was
so named because the first people to make it used John-apples which were
given that appellation because they ripened around St. John's Day, June
24. Apple-john evolved into the more friendly sounding apple-jack, except
in parts of New England where it remains apple-john. Jack Tar, meaning
a sailor, probably does not refer to anyone of that name, but to the tar
splattered clothing some sailors sported when working in the bowels of
ships. Another explanation is that it is a reference to tarpaulin cloth
commonly used upon ships in the 17th century. The expression
"a Jack of all trades"came into use in 1618. It was a complimentary expression
referring to a person who could do anything. It was more than a century
later that "and master of none," became attached to it. Jack Frost
has been mentioned as the personification of cold weather since 1826. Frost
is a real last name, and there are, therefore a few real Jack Frosts out
there. A letter to Fortune Magazine recounted the story of one Jack Frost
who was appropriately employed as a freezer repairman. According to William
and Mary Morris' Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, the expression
jackpot meaning a large prize comes from poker where the stakes accumulate
until the player "opens the pot" often with a jack or higher. Another theory
is that it is related to the British slang "jack" meaning "a farthing and
a counter used at gaming tables." That expression, which dates back to
about 1700, may be related to the American slang term "jack" meaning "money."
That expression dates back to about 1859, but there was an earlier American
phrase, "to make one's jack," meaning simply to succeed, which may have
evolved into the current meaning. The word "hijack" probably comes from
something a robber might say-- "Stick 'em up high, Jack!" or "Up high,
Jack!" Hijack evolved into "carjack." Michael B Quinion in his column World
Wide Words has even identified an information age version: "paperjacking."
Paperjackers "copy real Web pages to their own sites. Search engines then
index the fake pages as though they were the real ones. So seekers after
information using these search engines end up on the pages of the fraudsters
instead of the real sites they're looking for." The toy known as a jack-in-the-box
took its name from a 16th Century container which was designed
to fool the person who opened it into thinking there was something valuable
inside. The box would appear to be a chest of money or treasure and would
be traded as such but inside was "jack," as in nothing. (The same jack
in the expression "you don't know jack.") As for the restaurant chain,
Jack in the Box, it was so named because there was a huge unsightly metal
ventilation unit on the roof of Robert Peterson's restaurant. Since he
couldn't take it down, he decided to disguise it as a giant jack-in-the-box
toy. He renamed his restaurant accordingly.
There are a number of theories as to the origin of this name for the
skull and crossbones flag. None of them involves a happy pirate named Roger.
It may come from the Tamil title Ali Raja or "King of the Sea." The English
have a history of botching foreign pronunciations, and pirates are no exception.
Ali Raja may have become Ally Roger, Olly Roger and finally Jolly Roger.
Another explanation is that they borrowed the name from French pirates
who flew a flag called the pretty red or "joli rouge." English sailors
could easily have mangled that to Jolly Roger and referred to their own
flag that way. Another theory is that it comes from the 17th
Century English word "roger," which means "rogue or devil." The skull's
permanent smile making him appear "jolly."
It sounds like the name of a French fashion designer, and that's the
idea. Jordache jeans were the creation of a pair of Israeli-born, New York
garment makers called the Nakash Brothers. Denim trousers first came into
existence as clothes for miners. They remained working men's garments until
the 1950s when people like James Dean and Marlon Brando wore them on screen
and made them a teen sensation. By the 1970s they were a ubiquitous down-scale
clothing item. The Nakash brothers decided to take a different marketing
approach. Upscale jeans for the fashion-conscious. They made up the exotic,
French-sounding name, and along with it, the designer jeans craze of the
late 1970s and early 1980s. By 1979, thirty different companies were making
designer jeans. Americans were buying 60,000 pairs an hour. The industry
was turning out 500,000 miles of jeans a year- enough fabric to span the
equator 20 times. Of course, Jordache was not the first faux foreign product
aimed at U.S. consumers. The New York Times even coined a term for the
practice: "the Vichyssoise Strategy." Vichyssoise, cold potato soup, was
created at the Ritz Carlton hotel in New York. To make it palatable to
the American diner, it was given a French sounding name. Häagen Dazs
ice cream was invented in the Bronx in 1960. A Polish immigrant, Reuben
Mattus concocted the Scandinavian sounding name and put a map of Denmark
on the carton. Häagen Dazs means nothing in Danish. In fact,
the Danish language does not even use an umlaut. In the 1970s, Chrysler's
luxury Cordoba had television advertisements featuring actor Ricardo Montalban
boasting about the vehicle "Corinthian leather" seats. The leather did
not come from the Greek city of Corinth, or anywhere else in Europe for
that matter. The advertising executives made the term up. The leather reportedly
came from exotic New Jersey.
One thing is clear. No one named T.J. Maxx was involved in founding
the company by that name. So where did the name come from? The organization
will not divulge that secret information. "It is not in our interest,"
said a spokesperson. Likewise, R&A Bailey, the makers of Bailey's
Irish Cream, are not revealing the origin of the company name. "Unfortunately
we cannot reveal where the name comes from, it is a big secret," wrote
a company spokesperson. What they can reveal is that R&A Bailey was
established in the early 1970s. It employs more than 250 people to manufacture,
market and sell the drink. Bailey's Irish Cream does, in fact, contain
cream. More than 3,000 farmers supply 40 million gallons of milk a year
to make it.
The Morris dance is usually performed by
groups of five men and a boy miming characters from Robin Hood stories.
Generally danced as part of May Day pageants, it was banned by the Puritans
but has gained new popularity with folk dancing groups. The dance was not
named for anyone named "Morris." It was introduced to England from Spain
and was originally known as a "Moorish dance," that is, the ancient military
dances of the Moors.
Ragú spaghetti sauce was not named
for a person, in fact, it was not named at all. Italian immigrants Giovanni
and Assunta Cantisano arrived at Ellis Island towards the turn of the last
century. The couple opened a small shop where they sold imported cheese
and other Italian foods. As many immigrants do, the Cantisanos made friends
with other Italian-Americans. They invited them over to have pasta with
a spicy tomato and cheese sauce made with a family recipe. They put it
in jars, and distributed it to friends and family and eventually added
it to the stock of their own store and neighboring stores, but they never
bothered to give it a name. They just labeled it Ragú, Italian for
"sauce." In 1946, they opened their first plant in Rochester, New York.
They began distributing Ragú throughout the northeastern U.S. The
label showed a gondolier which their son Ralph had copies from the wall
of a Philadelphia restaurant. When his parents retired, Ralph Cantisano
took over operations of the company and helped build it into a $22 million
a year business. In 1969, he sold the company to Chesebrough-Ponds for
$43.8 million. Over the next 25 years, Ragú sales would increase
to $550 million, about 60 percent of U.S. spaghetti sauce sales.
The Sony electronics company was not founded
by a man named Mr. Sony. The original name of the company was Tokyo Tsushin
Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha or "Tokyo Communications Industry Joint-Stock Company."
When they produced their first transistor radio in 1955, company executives
decided that if they were going to have any international sales they would
need a simpler name. They had introduced a tape recorder with the English
named Tape-corder. The tape itself they had dubbed Soni, from the English
"sonic." They made plans to use that name on their new radio, but someone
suggested people might pronounce it So Nigh. So they changed the spelling
to Sony. Akio Morita, president and co-founder of the Sony Corporation
said the name was also chosen because it was reminiscent of the American
"Sonny Boy," which embraced the group of young people who started the company
in post-World War II days in Tokyo. They did not adopt Sonny, however,
because in Japanese the word son refers to loss or damage. The name Sony
was given to the entire operation in 1958. The name of another Japanese
electronics company, Toshiba, derives from Tokyo Shibaura Electric Company.
Shibaura is the part of Toyko where the company is headquartered. Mitsubishi
is Japanese for "three diamonds." Mitsu is "three" Bishi is "diamond."
The Sealy mattress company did not take
its name from a person, but from a place. It was founded in Sealy, Texas,
a small town just outside of Houston by cotton gin builder Daniel Haynes.
In 1881, he started making cotton-filled mattresses for his friends and
neighbors. He went on to invent a machine that compressed cotton for use
in mattresses, receiving a patent for his invention in 1889. The products
were known as "mattresses from Sealy" and eventually just Sealy. It is
today the nations top mattress and bedding maker with sales of nearly $9
billion a year. The number 2 mattress maker in the country, Serta, was
not named for a person either. It was begun in 1931 by 13 independent mattress
makers. The name Serta comes from a combination of the letters in the phrase
"Sleeper Tuftless Associates." Serta was originally named Guardian Knight,
then Sleeper Products and finally Serta. Although Serta is number 2 in
the U.S. overall, it is the nation's #1 mattress supplier to hotels and
motels. To keep your mattress from sagging in the spot where you sleep,
it is recommended that you turn it every two weeks in the first three months;
then, once every two months thereafter. A good mattress should last 8-10
A Svengali is one who attempts, usually
with evil intentions, to persuade or force another to do his bidding. The
word does not derive from a real person, but from a character in George
du Maurier's best-selling 1894 novel Trilby. Svengali was a Hungarian
Jewish musician and hypnotist, although the name is neither Hungarian nor
Jewish. A mentor, or loyal teacher, likewise comes from fiction.
He was a friend of Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey. The work is the
origin of the word odyssey as well. Some other words that come from
fictional, not real people, are babbitt, a member of the middle class whose
attachment to its business and social ideals makes that person a model
of narrow-mindedness and self-satisfaction, and babbittry, conforming to
such standards. Both are references to the character George French Babbitt
in Sinclair Lewis's 1922 novel Babbitt. Braggadoccio, a braggart
or boaster, is taken from the name of a blustering giant in Edmund Spenser's
1594 The Faerie Queene. The Fedora hat takes its name
from the character Fedora Romanoff in V. Sardov's 1882 novel Fedora.Mrs.
Malaprop, a character who humorously misused words in Richard Sheridan's
1775 The Rivals, gives us the word malapropism. Caspar Milquetoast,
a character in H.T. Webster's The Timid Soul, published in 1935,
gives us the expression milquetoast for a timid, unassertive person. The
adjective quixotic, describing an unrealistically idealistic person,
is a reference to Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote.
Scrooge in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, gave
us the word scrooge meaning a miserly person.
The Toni Home Permanent was not named for
a woman named Toni or Antonia. It was, in fact, not named for anyone at
all. The original name of the St. Paul, Minnesota business was Noma, Incorporated.
Noma stood for "no machines," a reference to one of its products, a chemically
activated hair-curling pad. It was founded by Richard Neison Harris whose
first attempt at a home permanent had failed. The product, called "Rol-Wav,"
was priced so low consumers thought of it as "cheap," and no one wanted
to risk her appearance with a cheap perm. So Harris asked a friend to help
him choose a classier name to re-position his product in the market. His
friend suggested Toni because Harris was a graduate of Yale, a university
that had "tone" or "class." The name stuck.
As in "Isle of." Etymologists are not in
agreement over the derivation of the name Isle of Wight. There are numerous
theories, but none involves a person named Wight. Some people believe Wight
is a misspelling of "white" and refers to the color of the island's cliffs.
Others speculate that it evolved from the earlier Latin name, Vectis. (Surely
you can hear the similarity between Wight and Vectis?) Vectis means lever
and the land was once called by the name because it was "levered" out of
the water. Other researchers believe the name came from the Welsh and is
related to the word "gwaith" meaning "work" or "time." The original source
for both words, however, remains obscure.
No, there was never a pilot named Roger Wilco, except maybe in the movie Airplane. The expression to acknowledge receipt of a radio message is simply an abbreviation. "Wilco" is short for "will comply." You don't often hear "wilco" on the radio these days, however, as "Roger" already implies that the receiver of the message will comply. (You would not expect to hear "Roger, I won't do that.") As for "Mr. Wilco's" first name, Roger. This dates back to World War II when Roger was the word in the phonetic alphabet that stood for the letter "R." Pilots responded with "R" meaning "received." Later the phonetic alphabet used by the American military was changed. "Romeo" is now used for the letter R, which made the reason for saying "Roger" a bit of a mystery.
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