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Today's Word



Jan 22, 2018
This week’s theme

This week’s words

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus
Fabius Maximus
Photo: Schurl50/Wikimedia

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with Anu Garg

It’s a big job to be the CEO of any country and if it’s the US, well, it’s a bigly job. America is the Walmart of countries. Its policies affect not only its own business, but that of others, near and far.

American presidents leave their mark for generations to come. Among other things, Teddy Roosevelt is known for conservation of public lands, Nixon for helping establish the Environmental Protection Agency, and so on.

Presidents leave their mark on language too. Teddy Roosevelt gave us teddy bear, Nixon brought us Watergate (and the suffix -gate, meaning a scandal), Reagan had Reaganomics, Obama Obamacare.

Will the current president leave his name in the language? Only time will tell. There’s already a word trumpery, which may appear to be coined after him, but isn’t.

Meanwhile, we’ll look at words coined after other people. A word coined after a person is known as an eponym, from Greek ep- (after) + -onym (name). This week we’ve rounded up characters from history, medicine, mythology, legend, and beyond, people whose names have become fossilized in the English language.



adjective: Avoiding direct confrontation; cautious; delaying.

After the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (c. 280-203 BCE), from his guerrilla tactics in not engaging the enemy directly. Instead, he chose the war of attrition, avoiding direct confrontation, disrupting the enemy’s supply lines, etc. For this, he also earned the nickname Cunctator Earliest documented use: 1598.

“But how could I confront Charlie with a letter which I had ferreted out from among his not-too-clean underwear? So instead I adopted a Fabian policy of watchful waiting.”
Erica Jong; Fear of Flying; Holt, Rinehart, and Winston; 1973.

“David Hicks has yet to face prosecution largely because of the fabian strategy of delay adopted by his own legal team. The numerous requests for a postponement of proceedings filed by his lawyers make complaints about their client’s detention without trial ring rather hollow.”
Brett Mason; Critics of the US tribunals turn a blind eye to the UN; The Age (Melbourne, Australia); Dec 8, 2006.

See more usage examples of fabian in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. -John Donne, poet (22 Jan 1573-1631)

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