November 4 ~ Perhaps Everything My Own Country: A Doctor's Story

"Meaning makes a great many things endurable, perhaps everything." ~ Carl Gustav Jung

In our constant search for life's meaning, we have discovered eponyms-- from the Greek word eponumos--words that originate from the name of a real person. Australian writer Robert Trahair estimated that there are over 35,000 eponyms in the English language.

For example, a promiscuous lover could be called a casanova, named after Italian philanderer and writer Giovanni Casanova (1730-1795). Everyone knows the sandwich was named for England's 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). But did you know a cardigan was named for the 7th Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868)?

As Confucious observed, "To know is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge."

We have Nicolas Chauvin to thank for the word "chauvinism." He was a French soldier blindly devoted to Napoleon Bonaparte. "The word impossible is not in my dictionary," Napoleon once said. For Chauvin, "loyalty" was the only word he knew.

Another Frenchman, Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), cut portraits out of black paper as a hobby. French acrobat Julius Leotard (1839-1870) found comfort working with tight tights. And Belgian Adolphe Sax (18141894) invented the saxophone.

Remember Machiavellism? Reaganomics? Darwinism? Seems only fair that if you discover something it should bear your name.

There are many medical eponyms. Louis Braille (1809-1852) invented braille. Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) named the dementia disease. And Virginia Apgar created the Apgar Newborn Scoring System to rate newborn infants.

Words and meanings... you learn something new every day. As journalist Evelyn Waugh put it: "One forgets words as one forgets names. One's vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die."

Look for meaning in everything.