'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


An immediate source of inspiration for this post is Sunil Laxman's post: 'Indian Accents and Flawless Speech' - to be precise, his musings on using the word 'erudite'.

While finishing my previous post, I noticed that I had just used the word 'eponymous' for the first time ever. I remembered first seeing the word in Theodore Baskaran's delightful book on nature, "The Dance of the Sarus" quite sometime back. Baskaran describes a quiet and thoughtful boatman named Govinda who ferried him across a river in a south Indian nature reserve and remarks: "he reminded me of the eponymous boatman from Hesse's Siddhartha". I had guessed then, the new word meant "having the same name as".

The children's magazine 'Kummatti' was indeed named after the movie of the same name. So, my use of "eponymous" appeared to be quite appropriate. Morever, very satisfyingly, Theodore Baskaran himself had already featured in the same post :).

I was feeling pretty smug about the matter, but a little bit of web-searching today has changed the picture totally. First, I looked up 'eponymous'at Here is what they say: "eponym = one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named". That was a bit nebulous to self. This page from Wikipedia is much clearer and here are further details.

'Eponymos' in Greek means 'giving name', NOT 'named after' or 'having the same name as'. Thus having the same name is not quite sufficient. If A is the eponym of B, it is B that is named after A and NOT the other way around. In our example, it is the movie that is eponymous with (or to?) the magazine - I had clearly got things wrong!

Theodore Baskaran too is on a sticky wicket (although his causal understanding is sound) for the following different reasons: (1) It is very unlikely that whoever named the humble boatman in his narrative would have named him specifically after a Hesse-an character - and as we noted above, merely having the same name won't do! Further, (2) The name of the wise boatman in 'Siddhartha' is not Govinda but Vasudeva!

Note: Now I remember Baskaran's book had taught me yet another interesting word: here is the which and how of it: "The story that the Great Indian Bustard was not selected as our National Bird only because of the dangerous possibilities inherent in misspelling its name may be APOCRYPHAL!"


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