Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11: Bowdlerize Day (Eponymous Verbs)

Today is the birthday of Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) a man who became infamous for his editing of Shakespeare. An Englishman, Bowdler studied medicine at Edinburgh but never practiced; instead, he took his scalpel to the plays of Shakespeare. His mission, according to Nancy Caldwell Sorel in Word People, was "to render Shakespeare fit to be read aloud by a gentleman in the company of ladies." His first edition of his ten-volume Family Shakespeare was published in 1818 (1).

After he finished with the Bard’s works, Bowdler devoted himself to expurgating Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Bowdler’s work became so notorious that his name entered the language as an eponym meaning "To expurgate prudishly." Typically eponyms begin as proper nouns and become general (lower case) nouns. Unusually Bowdler moved from being a proper noun to a verb: to bowdlerize, which means the process of censoring a work by deleting objectionable words or material.

Today’s Challenge: The Flesh Became Word
Given the definitions below, see if you can identify the Eponymous Verbs.
Each one began as the name of a real person.

1. To hypnotize or enthrall.

2. To execute without due process of law; especially, to hang.

3. To destroy most disease-producing microorganisms and limit fermentation in milk, beer, or other liquids by partial or complete sterilization.

4. To illustrate (a book) with drawings, prints, or engravings taken from other books, or to mutilate (a book) by clipping out its illustrative material for such use.

5. To treat (cotton thread) with sodium hydroxide, so as to shrink the fiber and increase its color absorption and luster.

6. To abstain from using, buying, or dealing with, as a protest or means of coercion.

7. To divide a state, county, or city into voting districts to give unfair advantage to one party in elections.

8. To murder by suffocation so as to leave the body intact and suitable for dissection, or to suppress quietly and unceremoniously.

9. To stimulate or shock with an electric current, or to arouse to awareness or action; to spur; startle (1).

Quotes of the Day:

-But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me. –Mark Twain

-The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book. --Walt Whitman

Word of the Day: expurgate: To remove erroneous, vulgar, obscene, or otherwise objectionable material.

Write: What proper name from today's newspaper is most likely to become a verb?

Answers: 1. to mesmerize 2. to lynch 3. to pasteurize 4. to grangerize 5. to mercerize 6. to boycott 7. to gerrymander 8. to burke 9. to galvanize

1 – Sorel, Nancy Caldwell. Word People: Being an Inquiry Into the Lives of those Person Who Have Lent Their Names to the English Language. New York: American Heritage Press: 1970.

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