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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 visit five places that have become toponyms in the English language.

abderian (AB-dir-ee-uhn) adjective

Given to excessive or incessant laughter.

[After Abdera, in ancient Thrace (present day Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece), the birth place of Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher. Location on the map: Abdera.]

It's not certain why Democritus was nicknamed the Laughing Philosopher. It may be owing to his stress on the value of cheerfulness. It's also said that he often appeared in public laughing while expressing his contempt of human follies. Paintings frequently show him laughing. The opposite of an abderian person is an agelast, someone who never laughs.

"The latest interview with Errol Flynn on the subject of his marriage affairs doesn't inspire me to pat my hands in behalf of abderian actor and bistro brawler."
Wood Soanes; Curtain Calls: Maybe Flynn is Fooling Himself!; Oakland Tribune (California); Oct 28, 1941.


The butterfly flitting from flower to flower ever remains mine, I lose the one that is netted by me. -Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate (1861-1941)

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