Words from Proper Names
Jingoist: One who boasts about his patriotism and favors a warlike foreign policy. In 1877, British Prime Minister Disraeli sent the fleet to Gallipoli to slow up the Russians. A singer wrote a ditty called “By Jingo” in honor of that action.
Lothario: rake; seducer; lover. Lothario was an amorous character in an eighteenth-century play. The Fair Penitent.
Maverick: one who acts independently. Samuel Maverick was a Texas rancher who refused to brand his cattle as others were doing.
Nemesis: Agent of retribution; just punishment. In Greek mythology, the goddess Nemesis punished pretentiousness with her swords and avenging wings.
Philanderer: one who makes love insincerely; one who engages in passing love affairs. The word comes from the Greek philandros (“man loving”) but gained its current usage because many English playwrights gave the name to their romantic leads.
Philippic: Bitter verbal attack. Philip II of Macedon wanted to make Greece into a monarchy. He was opposed by the great orator, Demosthenes, who denounced Philip in devastating speeches that came to be known as philippics.
Procrustean: designed to secure conformity; drastic. An ancient Greek robber named Procrustes tied his victims to a bed and then, to make them fit the bed, stretched the short ones and hacked off the limbs of the taller ones.
Protean: changeable; taking on different forms. In Greek mythology, Proteus was a sea god who could change his appearance at will.
Pyrrhic victory: a victory that is exceptionally costly. Pyrrhus defeated the Romans in 279 B.C. but his losses were terribly heavy.
Quixotic: romantically idealistic; impractical. The Spanish novelist, Cervantes, brought this word into our language when he wrote Don Quixote. His hero went forth foolishly to tilt against windmills and help the downtrodden.
Saturnine: sluggish; gloomy; grave. The planet Saturn is so far form the sun that it was thought to be cold and dismal.
Solecism: substandard use of words; violation of good manners. This word derives form the Greek inhabitants of the colony of Soloi who used a slangy dialect.
Spoonerism: an unintentional exchange of sounds. Reverend Spooner of New College, Oxford occasionally twisted his words around when he got excited so that “conquering kings: came out as “kinkering congs”
Sybarite: one who is fond of luxury and soft living. Sybaris was a fabulously wealthy Italian city, symbolic of the good life.
Tawdry: cheap; gaudy; showy. This word can be terraced to St. Audrey. Scarves called “St. Audrey’s laces” were sold in England where the local people changed the pronunciation to tawdry. The quality of the scarves, which at first was good, deteriorated, when they were mass produced for the peasant trade.
I. Which Word Comes to Mind?
In each of the following, read the statement, then circle the word that comes to mind.
1. You want to rip into your neighbor for his bigoted remarks.
(philanderer, philippic, protean)
2. A newspaper editorial calls for us to send the fleet to intimidate a Caribbean country.
(jingoism, spoonerism, solecism)
3. All the girls wear pantsuits except Betsy who prefers dresses
(maverick, saturnine, nemesis)
4. I heard of a scheme that would provide $10,000 for each American family.
(lothario, Pyrrhic victory, quixotic)
5. Everyone at the meeting was forced to change his or her mind in order to afree with the chairman’s philosophy.
(tawdry, sybarite, procrustean)
6. It’s unusual for a fashion editor to have such a gawdy taste in jewelry.
(tawdry, saturnine, protean)
7. Mark boasted of having been engaged seven times.
(philippic, lothario, jingoist)
8. The singer was fond of saying he always did it his way.
(maverick, solecism, spoonerism)
9. Rudy likes caviar and imported champagne.
(sybarite, nemesis, philanderer)
10. The senator blasted his opponent in a fiery speech.
(quixotic, procrustean, philippic)
II. True or False?
In the space provided, indicate whether each statement is true or false.
____ 1. No one welcomes a Pyrrhic victory.
____ 2. A jingoist is a hawk rather than a dove.
____ 3. “I don’t know nothing” is a spoonerism.
____ 4. A nemesis is something like a jinx.
____ 5. Going along with the majority is a maverick’s way.
____ 6. A tawdry garment is tasteful.
____ 7. By Ed’s saturnine expression, we knew that the news was bad.
____ 8. The prison diet of bread and water was in keeping with the sybarite’s lifestyle.
____ 9. The class was shocked at the professor’s use of a solecism.
____ 10. Placing a man on the moon was once considered a quixotic idea.
III. Fill in Blank.
Insert one of the new words in the proper space in each sentence below.
My cousin tried to diet, but desserts proved to be his _____________.
Charley, a born ______________, always votes against the majority.
The usually level-headed Kyra came up with a ___________ suggestion that was totally out of character.
Andrea thought she looked elegant, but we found her appearance to be _____________.
At the end of a one-hour _______________ against taxes, the candidate received thunderous applause.
The ______________ had contempt for anyone he thought lacked patriotic spirit.
After my tongue-tied ______________, I apologized to our hostess and left.
With fifty servants to wait on him, the Roman emperor was a true ____________.
Considering himself a ____________, Uncle Don proposed to every widow in town.
Myrtle’s _____________ expression was the result of a chronic stomach condition.
IV. What’s the Antonym?
Which of the new words is most nearly opposite in meaning to the one provided?
1. Conformist _____________
2. Eulogy _____________
3. Tasteful _____________
4. Lively _____________
5. Practical _____________
6. Constant _____________
7. Faithful husband _____________
8. Conservative _____________
9. Political Dove _____________
10. Democratic _____________