A few years ago I had the fun privilege of visiting the town of Snowflake, Arizona. My thought was Snowflake was a cool name (like my pun there?) for a town just north of the beautifully forested White Mountains. I pictured that once upon a time, town leadership sat around a conference table, inspired by the delicate flake of snow.
And then I found out it was named after Mr. Snow and Mr. Flake, founders of the town.
Snowflake is an eponym which is a town, a place, invention etc. named after a person.
For instance, my mom lived in Carol Stream which has nothing to do with a brook, but is named after a lady whose name was (drumroll) Carol Stream.
Did you know America is also an eponym? Our country is named after an Italian mapmaker Mr. Amerigo.
Here are some others:
Graham crackers were named after the man who invented them, Mr. Graham.
Hallmark cards are named after Mr. Hallmark.
Jumbo comes from the name of an elephant in the London zoo.
Nicotine is named after Mr. Nicot who introduced tobacco to France.
Silhouette is named after Mr. Silhouette, a French minister who put heavy taxes on the people and they couldn’t afford to get their portraits painted. They got silhouettes instead and anything cheap was then called a silhouette.
Here’s a fun one – the cardigan is named after the Earl of Cardigan.
And guppies are named after Mr. Guppy.
One of the reasons eponyms are so fascinating is because we don’t often realize that the eponym represents a person. The word has become so common to us, we just think of it as as part of our language. (I mean, did you KNOW that guppies were named after Mr. Guppy?) Often the person’s identity is lost in the resulting word.
Like Christian. Christian comes from the Greek word: Χριστιανός which means follower of Christ. Christian is therefore an eponym. Unfortunately, like many eponyms, the word often loses its meaning. People think they are Christians because of their family or because of where they are born or because once they prayed. Our world has watered down the word to such an extent that many people don’t even realize what it means. They don’t realize that a true Christian is someone who is truly a follower of Christ, a person who believes that He died and rose again for our sinful selves.
Let’s not go the typical eponyn route, but instead let’s live our lives representing the true meaning of our name so that others immediately “get it.”
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
Why not have an eponym contest with your kids? List all the eponyms you can and then challenge them to live up to their own name: Christian.
Oh, I heard another one this morning.
Did you know that German chocolate cake actually has nothing to do with Germany? No, it was invented right here in the U.S. by a man named Mr. German. Truly.