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Jan 20, 2014
This week's theme
Toponyms

This week's words
stellenbosch
campanology
perse
iliad
damask

Stellenbosch, South Africa
Stellenbosch, South Africa

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Once upon a time, a person's name was his complete identification and address. It could comprise his given name, profession, father or mother's name, a personal trait, and even the name of his village. That was because where one lived defined a person as much as anything else. The place of origin often turned into a generic term for some personal characteristic.

The English language is replete with such expressions where the name of a place has become associated with a particular quality, such as laconic (using few words) from Laconia in ancient Greece or bohemian (unconventional) from Bohemia in the Czech Republic. There are hundreds of toponyms -- words derived from the names of places.

This week we'll visit five places that have become toponyms in the English language. Our stops will be South Africa, Italy, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.

stellenbosch

PRONUNCIATION:
(STE-len-bosh)

MEANING:
verb tr.: To relegate someone incompetent to a position of minimal responsibility.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Stellenbosch, a town in South Africa. Earliest documented use: 1900.

NOTES:
Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, was a British military base during the Second Boer War. Officers who had not proven themselves were sent to Stellenbosch, to take care of something relatively insignificant, such as to look after horses. Even if they kept their rank, this assignment was considered a demotion. Eventually the term came to be applied when someone was reassigned to a position where he could do little harm.
Also see Peter Principle.
A similar term is coventry.
Another word derived from the name of a South African town is maffick.

USAGE:
"His erstwhile colleague acknowledged Mr Myers's absence. Has Mr Myers been stellenbosched?"
Does RTE Object to Frugality?; Irish Independent; (Dublin, Ireland); Nov 13, 2008.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility. -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)

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