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Are there any grammatically correct examples of terms named after someone that are no longer capitalized?

I know certain brand names have become so ingrained in the lexicon that they are no longer capitalized - xerox, coke, hoover, etc. - but are there examples where the now-lower cased item is named after a person?

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Related (but not duplicate): Should the word Boolean be capitalized? –  F'x Feb 22 '11 at 21:02

9 Answers 9

up vote 5 down vote accepted

A quick Wikipedia search gave me these words: quixotic (I'm not sure this counts), draconian, and cesarean.

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Off the top of my head: bloomers. –  Marthaª Feb 22 '11 at 20:48
    
Thanks! I had no idea there was a Greek statesman named Draco for whom the word draconian was named after. Learn something new every day. –  Scott Mitchell Feb 22 '11 at 20:52
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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_eponyms offers some more examples: atlas, bowdlerize, braille, casanova, chauvinism, daguerreotype, derrick, diesel, gerrymander, guppy, jeremiad, jeroboam, leotard, lynch, martinet, mausoleum, narcissist, nicotine, poinsettia, sideburns, tarmac, teddy bear, sadism, saxophone, shrapnel, volt, watt. –  John Feb 22 '11 at 21:14

All units of measurement named after scientists are, when used in English, in lowercase. So, you can add to your list: kelvin, joule, ampere, henry, newton, hertz, pascal, watt, coulomb, volt, farad, ohm, siemens, weber, tesla, becquerel, gray, sievert, and others.

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Though the SI symbols derived from them are in uppercase. –  TRiG Jul 5 '11 at 13:14

Also boycott and euclidean (as in geometry), although that latter one usually is still capitalized.

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+1 for boycott :) –  psmears Feb 22 '11 at 20:49
    
I didn't know boycott was named after anyone, neat. Although I don't recall ever seen the Euclidean in "Euclidean geometry" in lower case. –  Scott Mitchell Feb 22 '11 at 20:53
    
@Scott Mitchell Yeah, I didn't know it either, strange because the episode after which the verb is coined happened fairly recently, in the 1880s. –  Uticensis Feb 22 '11 at 23:31
    
In Ireland, Boycott is part of history we're taught in primary school. –  TRiG Jul 5 '11 at 13:13

Yes, just because the origin of a word is originally a person's name doesn't automatically mean it is always capitalised.

For example, a "spoonerism" is a type of speech error that allegedly somebody called Spooner tended to make. A "nosy parker" is somebody exhibiting a behaviour that allegedly somebody called "Parker" had.

Notice how in these examples, and unlike cases such as "Chomskyan", "Thatcherite", we're not naming something after that person's deliberate doctrine/invention.

There may also be a factor involved of time and/or how much the person in question is still known to contemporary speakers (which may be why we'd tend to write "sadistic" rather than "Sadistic", for example).

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The diesel. A guillotine. I guess you're looking for nouns without suffixes only?

To lynch (John was quicker). cesarean. Wow, never heard about that:

goethite |ˌgoʊθaɪt|
noun
a dark reddish-brown or yellowish-brown mineral consisting of oxyhydroxide iron, occurring typically as masses of fibrous crystals.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from the name of J.W. von Goethe + -ite

tsar/czar – ORIGIN from Russian tsar’, representing Latin Caesar.

Found a series: einsteinium, nobelium, etc.

That's fun.

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Elements in the periodic table are lower cased by convention, so they were never initially capitalized. –  Scott Mitchell Feb 22 '11 at 21:41
    
Not in my native language ;-) you're right, that's why I wrote 'series'. –  thyx Feb 22 '11 at 21:51
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This answer may have some applicable words, but it doesn't read well at all. –  JYelton Feb 22 '11 at 23:40

The one I can think of off the top of my head are "cartesian," as in cartesian plane, named after Rene Descartes. My second though was "hermaphrodite," but that's not exactly named after a person...

I also found a really big list of these "eponyms." Many of them are not capitalised.

http://foxdreamer.tripod.com/page2.html

Have fun! :)

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Thanks for sharing. Interesting side-note: I don't recall ever not seeing Cartesian capitalized, at least not in my university textbooks. –  Scott Mitchell Feb 23 '11 at 0:23
    
I guess cartesian goes both ways, then. I rarely see it capitalised. Weird. –  kitukwfyer Feb 23 '11 at 0:51

I found out two last night, watching Melvyn Bragg's excellent series about the English language.

  • "orrery" was named for the Earl of Orrery, who funded the making of the first modern one.

  • "johnson" for the male organ, reportedly named for Samuel Johnson during Jane Austen's time because 'he would stand up to anybody'.

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If we can count orrery, we should probably count sandwich too (named after the Earl of Sandwich). –  TMN Mar 7 '11 at 13:47

A herculean task (only capitalized if it refers to one of the actual tasks of Hercules)

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narcissus.

Try some personal names:
(Oh, peter, too)

louis |ˈluwəs| |ˈluwi| (also louis d'or )
noun (pl. same)
a gold coin issued in France between 1640 and 1793.
• another term for napoleon (sense 2).
ORIGIN from Louis, the name of many kings of France.

joe |ʤoʊ|
noun informal
1 coffee. [ORIGIN: 1940s: of unknown origin.]
2 an ordinary man: the average joe. [ORIGIN: mid 19th cent.: nickname for the given name Joseph; compare with Joe Blow.]

john |dʒɑn|
noun informal
1 a toilet.
2 a prostitute's client.
ORIGIN early 20th century (sense 2): from the given name John, used from late Middle English as a form of address to a man, or to denote various occupations, including that of priest (late Middle English) and policeman (mid 17th century).

Other physical units, e.g.

henry |ˈhɛnri| (abbreviation: H)
noun (plural henries |ˈhɛnriz| or henrys |ˈhɛnriz|) Physics
the SI unit of inductance, equal to an electromotive force of one volt in a closed circuit with a uniform rate of change of current of one ampere per second.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: named after Joseph Henry (1797–1878), the American physicist who discovered the phenomenon.

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Don't be a dick... –  Malvolio Feb 22 '11 at 22:53
    
All physical units named after a person are lowercase when spelled out (to avoid confusion with the person) but uppercase abbreviations. –  mgb May 30 '11 at 22:12

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