Archive for the ‘eponym’ Category


April 11, 2010

Boycott was a name of an Irish estate agent who did not behave nicely to others, and thus got ostracized – socially isolated:

The word boycott entered the English language during the IrishLand War” and is derived from the name of Captain Charles Boycott, the estate agent of an absentee landlord, the Earl Erne, on Achill Island in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880.

In September that year protesting tenants demanded from Boycott a substantial reduction in their rents. He not only refused but also evicted them from the land. Charles Stewart Parnell, in his Ennis Speech proposed that, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should refuse to deal with him. Despite the short-term economic hardship to those undertaking this action, Boycott soon found himself isolated—his workers stopped work in the fields and stables, as well as the house. Local businessmen stopped trading with him, and the local postman refused to deliver mail.

The concerted action taken against him meant that Boycott was unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops in his charge. Eventually 50 Orangemen from Cavan and Monaghan volunteered to harvest his crops. They were escorted to and from Claremorris by one thousand policemen and soldiers—this despite the fact that Boycott’s complete social ostracism meant that he was actually in no danger of being harmed. Moreover, this protection ended up costing far more than the harvest was worth. After the harvest, the “boycott” was successfully continued. Within weeks Boycott’s name was everywhere. It was used by The Times in November 1880 as a term for organized isolation. According to an account in the book “The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland” by Michael Davitt, the term was coined by Fr. John O’Malley of County Mayo to “signify ostracism applied to a landlord or agent like Boycott”. The Times first reported on November 20, 1880: “The people of New Pallas have resolved to ‘boycott’ them and refused to supply them with food or drink.” The Daily News wrote on December 13, 1880: “Already the stoutest-hearted are yielding on every side to the dread of being ‘Boycotted’.” By January of the following year, the word was being used figuratively: “Dame Nature arose…. She ‘Boycotted’ London from Kew to Mile End” (The Spectator, January 22, 1881).

On December 1, 1880 Captain Boycott left his post and withdrew to England, with his family.

first to market? Stigler’s law of eponymy!

January 26, 2010

One of the greatest takeways from my semester at Yale was that no matter how original you think you are, or an idea you have, someone has thought of it before, and has a little academic activity established around that thought already.

some, hundreds of years ago.

so, a bit of humility

Stigler’s law of eponymy is a process proposed by University of Chicago statistics professor Stephen Stigler in his 1980 publication “Stigler’s law of eponymy”.  In its simplest and strongest form it says: “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.”

Stigler’s Law was discovered many times before Stigler named it

Historical acclaim and reputation tend to be allocated to people unevenly. Scientific observations and results are often associated with people who have high visibility and social status, and are named long after their discovery. Eponymy is a striking example of this phenomenon. Particularly important scientific observations are often associated with a person, as in the case of Gaussian distribution, Halley’s comet, and Planck’s constant. Nature never works in isolation. Ideas arrive in parallel, and theoretical or practical works/experiments too are near simultaneous in time-space. It is the publicizing and recording of the work that assumes identity relationship with the one most famously connected with it. Indeed many ideas never see fruition for their time has not come or they are not fully recognised, appreciated or properly advertised.

Often the person who is associated with the particular observation, theory, or result was not its original inventor. Based on his studies on the history of statistics, Stephen Stigler therefore proposed his own “Stigler’s Law of Eponymy.” Stigler attributes the discovery of Stigler’s Law to sociologist  Robert K. Merton (which makes the law self-referencing).

merton, by the way. was a distinguished American sociologist perhaps best known for having coined the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy.” He also coined many other phrases that have gone into everyday use, such as “role model” and “unintended consequences“. his son, robert merton is a noble prize winner in economics. he is the one of black scholes fame and long term capital management LTCM.

press here for a good article about how great ideas are not rare

who usually gets the credit? the most popular or powerful person at the time at which it gained wide acceptance.

the lesson here is:

  • there is already a principle named after a person for this. the  matthew principle, (more will be given to those that already have, matthew 25:29)
  • for israeli startups,  to invest in marketing

and time markets,

and get lucky.

teddy bear

December 27, 2009

want to be appreciated?

a word to be remembered by?

how about a word and a toy?

A teddy Bear is called so because of, or after, Teddy Roosevlet.

the story is a good one.

an incident involving “strong men” and a fierce beast

a kind human act, one of a true sportsman

some reporter makes a cartoon out of it

a creative entrepreneur hears of the story and creates joy, a toy and money

another entrepreneur, in another corner of the world, comes up with the same idea, at the same time

since there is little IP involved, they compete, create a market for generations to come

from wikipedia:

The name Teddy Bear comes from former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was “Teddy”. The name originated from an incident on a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, to which Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already killed an animal. A suite of Roosevelt’s attendants, led by Holt Collier,[1] cornered, clubbed, and tied an American Black Bear to a willow tree after a long exhausting chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he should shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike,[2] but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902.[3] While the initial cartoon of an adult black bear lassoed by a white handler and a disgusted Roosevelt had symbolic overtones, later issues of that and other Berryman cartoons made the bear smaller and cuter.[4]

Morris Michtom saw the drawing of Roosevelt and the bear cub and was inspired to create a new toy. He created a little stuffed bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign that read “Teddy’s bear,” after sending the bear to Roosevelt and receiving permission to sell the bears. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co., which still exists today.[2]

At the same time, in Germany the Steiff firm, unaware of Michtom’s bear, produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff‘s designs. They exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903 and exported 3000 to the United States

Eponym – people becoming a word

December 27, 2009

Many entrepreneurs tell me they want to change the world; to leave a mark.

i hate to say it, but i understand them.

and i would like to think i have a small ego.


perhaps the best way to have you remembered is to have a word coined after you.

i think a verb is even better.

a bit like brands

‘xerox this, please’

mr Xerox would have loved it….

i have ventured and looked for some such words

they are called eponyms

as in the words of the song. ‘eponym and ivory’

i will try and tell the story behind some eponyms

fill free to send me your favorite ones, and i will try to post them as well