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May 31, 2010
This week's theme
Words not named after the person they should be

This week's words
McKenzie
orrery
philippic
Buridan's ass
guillotine

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Give credit where credit is due, goes the expression, but in this week's words the credit is misplaced. Each of these words is coined after the wrong person.

It's not always easy to assign credit, however, as the contention on the naming of diseases shows.

There's even a law about misplaced credits. Stigler's law of eponymy says, "No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer." Stigler credits this law to sociologist Robert K. Merton (thus making the law self-referential).

Check out this week's five words not named after the person they should be.

McKenzie

PRONUNCIATION:
(muh-KEN-zee)

MEANING:
noun: Someone who attends a court trial as an adviser to one of the parties. This person works not as a legal representative, but as an informal adviser. Also known as a "McKenzie friend".

ETYMOLOGY:
The term arose from the 1970 divorce case McKenzie v. McKenzie in the UK. The man in this case didn't have a lawyer. An Australian barrister, Ian Hanger, wanted to help, but could not as he was not qualified to practice in the UK. The man represented himself; Hanger offered to sit with him and provide advice as a friend, but he was denied this by the court. The man lost the case, and this denial became the basis for appeal which affirmed the position that a litigant can, in fact, have someone attend the trial to help in a non-professional capacity. Given the role of the barrister Hanger, a better choice of coinage for this word would have been Hanger, instead of McKenzie.

USAGE:
"A measure, of benefit to women especially, would be to permit the litigant to have a McKenzie friend in the course of the case."
Chitra Narayan; On An Obstacle Course; Hindu (Chennai, India); Nov 17, 2005.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence. -Hal Borland, journalist (1900-1978)

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