or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Name Game

From a story today on BoingBoing:

Sam Bulte is the Canadian Liberal Member of Parliament who takes big campaign contributions from the entertainment cartel and then proposes Draconian, US-style copyright laws.

What arrested me was "Draconian", because one doesn't usually see it capitalized (except, obviously, at the beginning of a sentence), and with good reason; it isn't supposed to be.

An eponym is a word made out of a name: "bloomers", for example, named after their inventor, Amelia Bloomer, or "sandwich", named after an earl who supposedly invented that dish. In English, eponyms generally aren't capitalized; we don't write "Quixotic", though that word comes from "Don Quixote". (One exception is when the eponym spells out the name in full: a Sam Brown belt, for example, or Queen Anne's lace. Eponyms that employ a first name, such as "lazy susan" or "sneaky pete", may or may not be capitalized.)

"Draconian" comes from an ancient Greek lawmaker, Draco, whose code of laws was relatively impartial but unforgiving; the word means "extremely, often unfairly, severe", and like most other adjectives in English, it gets along just fine in lower case.


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