May 29:  Words for Words Day

On this day in 1997, 13 year-old Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.   The winning word was euonym, which means “a name well suited to the person, place, or thing named.”  For example, the name Bill Mansion would be a euonym for a realtor.

Scripps National Spelling Bee Logo.svgThe Greek suffix –onym, meaning “name or word” is found in many words that identify categories of words.  In short, these words ending in –onym are “words for words.”

Here are some examples:

Acronym:  Words made up of the initials of other words, such as NASA or SCUBA.

Antonym:  Words with the opposite meaning, such as love and hate.

Capitonym:  Words that change pronunciation and meaning when capitalized, such as august or nice.

Contronym:  Words that are their own antonyms, such as bolt or weather.

Eponym:  Words derived from proper names, such as quixotic, which derived from the literary character Don Quixote.

Heteronym:  Words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and pronunciations, such as produce and entrance.

Pseudonym:  A pen name, such as Mark Twain for Samuel Clemens.

Retronym:  An adjective-noun pairing that evolves because of a change in the noun’s meaning, such as acoustic guitar.  The adjective acoustic became necessary with the development of the electric guitar.

Toponym:  Words derived from the names of specific geographic locations, such as the word bikini, which was named after Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Synonym:  Words with the same, or nearly the same, meaning, such as buy and purchase.

Today’s Challenge:  More Words For Words

Besides words that end with the suffix -onym, what are some other words that identify categories of specific words?  Below are some examples of categories of specific words.  Select three of the categories below (or some other word categories you can think of) and research the definitions of each, along with at least four example words for each category.  Make sure to explain what makes each category distinctive.

abstract noun, archaism, blend, collective noun, conjunctive adverb, contraction, count noun, definite article, euphemism, gerund, interjection, interrogative pronoun, loanword, malapropism, palindrome, reduplicative, univocalic word

(Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day:  A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one. -Baltasar Gracian

May 28:  Eponym Day

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a real or imaginary person. For example, the word shrapnel evolved from Henry Shrapnel, an English artillery officer who developed an exploding shell that sent out bits of metal. Most often the capitalized proper noun that refers to the specific person becomes lowercase as it is transformed into a general noun, adjective, or verb.  Other examples of eponyms are boycott, cardigan, and silhouette.

Gillotine-JosephIgnace crop.jpgSo, what makes May 28 a date related to the de-capitalization of words? Well, it just happens to be the birthday of the “Father of Decapitation,” Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814), the inventor of the guillotine. Ironically, this French physician was against capital punishment. He suggested his invention to the French Legislative Assembly with the hope that a more humane and less painful form of execution would be a logical stepping stone to the elimination of capital punishment altogether.

The words capitalization and capital punishment share a common etymology; Cap in Latin means head. Capital as it refers to letters, therefore, means head letter. Capital, as it refers to capital punishment, means execution by decapitation.

Today’s Challenge:  Off With Their Head Letters

What are some examples of English words that might have originated from the names of people?  Use a good dictionary to lookup the meanings of at least two of the following eponyms. Then, do some research to find the complete capitalized first and last names of the people from whom they are derived.  Also, give some of the biographical details about the individuals and what made them influential enough to be immortalized in the dictionary.

amp, braille, bowdlerize, braille, chauvinism, clerihew, diesel, doily, galvanize, gerrymander, leotard, lynch, maverick, mesmerize, nicotine, ohm, pasteurize, quisling, sandwich, saxophone, spoonerism, tawdry, teddy bear, volt, watt, zeppelin  (Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Words and Language)

Quotation of the Day: Two men look through the same bars; one sees the mud, and the other the stars. –Frederick Langbridge