Theme – Toponyms
Once upon a time, a person’s name was his complete identification and address. It could comprise his given name, profession, father or mother’s name, a personal trait, and even the name of his village. That was because where one lived defined a person as much as anything else. The place of origin often turned into a generic term for some personal characteristic.
The English language is replete with such expressions where the name of a place has become associated with a particular quality, such as laconic (using few words) from Laconia in ancient Greece or bohemian (unconventional) from Bohemia in the Czech Republic. There are hundreds of toponyms — words derived from the names of places.
This week we’ll visit five places that have become toponyms in the English language. Our stops will be South Africa, Italy, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.
1. stellenbosch (STE-len-bosh)
verb tr.: To relegate someone incompetent to a position of minimal responsibility. (STE-len-bosh)
verb tr.: To relegate someone incompetent to a position of minimal responsibility.
After Stellenbosch, a town in South Africa. Earliest documented use: 1900.
Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, was a British military base during the Second Boer War. Officers who had not proven themselves were sent to Stellenbosch, to take care of something relatively insignificant, such as to look after horses. Even if they kept their rank, this assignment was considered a demotion. Eventually the term came to be applied when someone was reassigned to a position where he could do little harm.
“His erstwhile colleague acknowledged Mr Myers’s absence. Has Mr Myers been stellenbosched?”
2. campanology (kam-puh-NOL-uh-jee)
noun: The art or study of bell-ringing or making bells.
From Latin campana (bell). From the Campania region in Italy, known for the bronze that was used to cast bells.
The term bell-ringing is preferred over campanology by people involved in it. In general, those in the know go with simpler terms. For example, caving over spelunking, coding over developing software, and so on.
“A woman who has helped secure the future of bell ringing across the east of England has been appointed MBE in the New Year Honours list for her services to campanology.”
“The call buttons were pressed so frequently that the passengers were in danger of getting a suntan from the lights, and the galley sounded like a campanology convention for the deaf.”
adjective: Of a grayish blue or purple color.
From persus (dark blue), from Latin Persicus (Persian), from Persia, former name of Iran. Why this color is associated with Persia is not entirely clear. Picture – http://wordsmith.org/words/images/perse.jpg
“How much the amethyst ring on her right hand mirrored the fading perse color of the sky.”
“He noticed the perse under each lid, and the blue, death-struck lips.”
4. iliad (IL-ee-uhd)
1. A long narrative, especially an epic poem describing martial exploits.
2. A long series of miseries or disasters.
“She knew … stories which form part of an Iliad of obscure hatreds, quarrels, adulteries, marriages.”
“Professional football players are our gladiators. The only difference is that we, the fans, don’t, as they did at the Colosseum in Rome, put our thumbs up or down to decide a player’s fate. But then we don’t have to; they all but kill themselves. In each of his interviews, Mr. Cohen asks former players: ‘How’re you holding up physically?’ Everyone answers with an Iliad of injuries and woes.”
noun: 1. A reversible fabric with a pattern woven into it, used for table linen, upholstery, etc.
2. Short for damask rose.
3. The color of damask rose: grayish red or pink.
4. Short for damask steel.
5. Wavy markings on such steel.
adjective: 1. Made of or resembling damask.
2. Having the color of damask rose.
verb tr.: 1. To decorate or weave with richly-figured designs.
2. To inlay a metal object with gold or silver patterns; to gild.
“The richly coloured damask-covered walls do evoke the palaces for which many of the pictures were intended.”