Definition from Oxford Dictionary: An eponym is “a person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named.”
Harry Potter is full of eponyms, but for this essay, I want to present one certain type of eponym and offer three examples of such. This specific kind of eponym enters our vocabulary extracted directly from a popular novel. It’s when a fictional character may exhibit certain characteristics — noble or flawed — and we adopt the proper name of this fictional character as a term to be used to ascribe his/her certain human trait to a person in real life. The three examples are Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1605/1615), A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens, 1843), and Pollyanna (Eleanor H. Porter, 1913).
You’ve probably read the book, Don Quixote, or have seen the ballet. In the story, Alonzo Quixano reads so many books about “knights in shining armor” that he renames himself “Don Quixote,” places a cooking pot on his head (to serve as a helmet), and commences on an adventurous trek in order to reclaim the lost art of chivalry, and finally capture the woman of his dreams. He’s clearly idealistic, romantic ... and delusional. So, if you meet someone who seems to dream about unrealistic endeavors or clings on to romantic hopes that will never come into fruition, you can describe him as “quixotic.”
Ebenezer Scrooge is the second example. If you have ever read the novella, A Christmas Carol, or seen the play, you’ll remember the old man, Mr. Scrooge. He was bitter, miserly — and how cruelly he treated poor lil (short for “little”) Timmy! We don’t want to be a “scrooge” — especially at Christmas!
And finally, a “Pollyanna” (and you do capitalize it) is someone who is foolishly optimistic. In the children’s book, Pollyanna, Pollyanna Whittier is a little orphan girl. She has nowhere else to live but with her very strict Aunt Polly. But the orphan girl, amidst much “gloom and doom,” remains mindlessly cheerful. We would call someone who is overly cheerful and inappropriately optimistic a “Pollyanna.” So, if you were to say to someone that your cat just died, and this someone said, “Oh, but what a beautiful morning it is!” — we would definitely describe this person as being “Pollyannaish.”
Can you think of any more book or movie characters that have made it to popular usage as a noun, adjective, verb, or adverb to describe our noble or flawed characters?
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