Over the years the names of many individual people have added colour to the Australian English vocabulary. The technical term for words deriving from people’s names is eponym (from the Greek epi ‘upon’ + onoma ‘name’). Eponymous people in Australian English include Anna Pavlova (ballerina), Barry Crocker (actor and singer), Baron Lamington (Governor of Queensland ), Ned Kelly (bushranger), Dame Nellie Melba (singer), Dorothy Dix (journalist), Sylvanus Bowser (inventor), Maria ‘Granny’ Smith (gardener), Reginald Grundy (television producer), and Harold Holt (Prime Minister) to name a few.* One of the more recent names we can add to this list is former Australian Olympian Steven Bradbury.
The Olympic Games provide dictionary-makers with an excellent chance for word-gathering. Every four years those of us who enjoy the spectacle are entertained and educated by the current crop of sporting terms used by commentators, journalists, and athletes. Some words we only seem to hear during an Olympic year: chef de mission, for example, a fancy title for ‘team manager’. And once again the verb to medal is making people hot under the collar. Nobody, it seems, likes the verbing of nouns. But it’s time to get over this one. It was first recorded in the US in 1966 and came to prominence in the Barcelona Games of 1992. Continue reading →