Theme: Toponyms and eponyms
They are words derived from places or people, real and fictional, from history and mythology. They are known as toponyms and eponyms, from Greek topo- (place) + -onym (name), and epi- (upon) + -onym (name).
1. serendipity (ser-uhn-DIP-i-tee)
noun: The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by chance. Also, an instance of such a discovery.
Coined by novelist Horace Walpole based on the fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip”. The Princes were supposedly making these happy discoveries they were not looking for. From Persian Sarandip (Sri Lanka), from Arabic sarandib.
“To maximise serendipity, Yossi Vardi cleverly mixes specialised conferences with the more eclectic kind.”
2. mithridatism (MITH-ri-day-tiz-uhm)
noun: The developing of immunity to a poison by gradually increasing the dose.
After Mithridates VI, king of Pontus (now in Turkey) 120-63 BCE, who is said to have acquired immunity to poison by ingesting gradually larger doses of it. Earliest documented use: 1851.
Mithridates VI’s father was poisoned. No wonder VI wanted to develop tolerance to poison. The story goes that after VI’s defeat by Pompey, he didn’t want to be captured alive. So he tried to end his life by taking poison. That didn’t work, so he had a servant stab him with a sword.
“Some monks resorted to the direct ingestion of mercury and cinnabar, small quantities at first, but gradually building up the dosage as the body’s tolerance increased — an alchemical mithridatism.”
Alexander Goldstein; The Foundling; Trafford Publishing; 2009.
3. rhadamanthine (rad-a-MAN-thin, -thyn)
adjective: Inflexibly just or severe.
In Greek mythology, Rhadamanthus was the son of Zeus and Europa. He was a judge of the underworld and known for his strict justice. Earliest documented use: 1778.
“Antoine Christophe Saliceti returned to his home island in the role of inflexible ideologue … dispensing rhadamanthine justice.”
4. elysian (i-LIZH-uhn)
adjective: Blissful; delightful.
From Latin Elysium, from Greek elysion pedyon (Elysian plain/fields). In Greek mythology, Elysium (or the Elysian Fields) was the final resting place for the souls of heroes and the virtuous after their death.
“Our neighbour stuck his head over the fence one arvo* and regaled me with Elysian illusions involving the company he worked for.”
* Australian slang for ‘afternoon’
5. icarian (i-KAR-ee-uhn, eye-)
adjective: Of or relating to an over-ambitious attempt that ends in ruin.
After Icarus in Greek mythology who flew so high that the sun melted the wax holding his artificial wings. Icarus plunged to his death into the sea
“But the film is a warning about flying too high. Philippe Petit may have succeeded in the high wire walk, but he suffers an Icarian fall in his personal life.”