25 Eponyms as Literary Wordplay
Several DailyWritingTips.com posts have focused on, for example, phenomena and ideas named after people, and concepts or objects identified by the names of historical figures. This entry specifically suggests mythological, literary, and historical eponyms that may inspire you to employ such terms in fiction writing as cloaked allusions to characters or things. Think of these examples and others as akin to puns:
- A law firm named Bowler, Derby, Fedora, Stetson, and Trilby. (Maybe these will be names of characters in the upcoming film version of Lidsville, the early- ’70s Saturday-morning TV show about a land of sentient hats.)
- A star-crossed couple named Jeremiah, namesake of a pessimistic prophet from the Bible, and Cassandra, named after the Trojan woman blessed with the gift of prophecy but fated never to be believed.
- A maid named Abigail. (In Victorian England, house servants were routinely stripped of their birth names and assigned ones considered more pleasant for their employers to utter, and Abigail was a common moniker for a housemaid.)
- A vigilant or nosy neighbor named Argus, the name of the many-eyed monster of Greek mythology.
- A heavily burdened character named Atlas, after the Titan in Greek mythology charged with holding up the heavens.
- A place called the Augean Stables, named after the fabled stables of Augeas, the cleaning of which constituted one of the legendary twelve labors of Hercules.
- A spy’s contact code-named Baedeker, after the name of the popular guidebook series, or Cicerone, after a word for a sightseeing guide (in turn named after the Roman orator and statesman Cicero).
- A loud woman who’s always letting off steam named Calliope, after the strident steam-whistle instrument named in honor of the Greek muse of epic poetry.
- A tormented woman named Catherine Wheeler, named after the Catherine wheel, a rotating fireworks wheel in turn inspired by a Catholic saint tortured on a wheel.
- An elusive woman named Fata Morgana (or, more subtly, Morgan Fate), after the mirage phenomenon named for the Italian translation of the name of Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay (“fairy,” or “magician”).
- An extremely attractive person named Mickey Finn, after a slang term for a drugged drink. (The active ingredient is sometimes called “knockout drops.”)
- A ruminative character named Fletcher, after the health food faddist notorious for prescribing a quantifiable amount of chewing while eating.
- An energizing character named Galvani, after the scientist who studied the stimulating effects of electricity.
- A hapless company called Gordian Inc., named for the knot that could not be untied. (Alexander the Great reportedly solved the problem by severing the knot with his sword.)
- An unhelpful character named Hobson, after the stable owner who hired out any horse a customer wanted, as long as the one selected was next in line to be used (hence the oxymoronic expression “Hobson’s choice”).
- An arbiter named Hoyle, after the eponymous author of rules for card games (hence the nearly extinct expression “according to Hoyle”).
- A race car driver or reckless motorist named Jehu (after the biblical king of that name notorious for his wild charioteering).
- A drink named the Molotov cocktail, after the nickname for the bomb made from a bottle filled with inflammable liquid and ignited with a wick. (The bomb is in turn named after a Russian Communist politician.)
- An impostor named Pinchbeck, after the watchmaker whose created an inexpensive alloy resembling gold.
Hundreds of eponyms are available for enlivening satirical or otherwise humorous prose.
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