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madeleine (MAD-uh-lin) noun

1. A small, rich cake baked in a fluted, shell-shaped pan.

2. Something that evokes memory or nostalgia.

[Contraction of French gâteau à la Madeleine, literally Cake Madeleine. Who this Madeleine was isn't clear. The recipe for this cake has been attributed to the French cook Madeleine Paulnier/Paumier but that's unsubstantiated.]

"I'll never forget the summer I first read `Little Women.' Twenty-six years later, that memorable opening ("`Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug") is a literary madeleine, taking me back to an earlier time when reading was an unmixed pleasure and a book a magical charm that sealed me off from the world."
Norrie Epstein; 'Little Women' Read by Girls but Remembered by Women; The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland); Apr 12, 1992.

"Exhume Once Upon A Mattress, I double dare you, but keep your mitts off a musical madeleine from my hoary past."
James Magruder; They Made Words Sing; American Theatre (New York); Apr 1997.

We often choose names because they have specific meanings. My daughter's name Ananya, for example, means unique in Sanskrit. But many times, what we do (or what's done to us) assigns new meanings to those names. The name Philip means a lover of horses (from Greek). But the orations of Demosthenes against Philip, king of Macedon in the fourth century BCE, resulted in another sense of the word. Today philippic is a synonym for bitter denunciation. The word donkey is derived from the name Duncan.

All this week's words are terms coined after names. Some of these are derived from fictional characters, while others are based on real persons. Some are based on first names, while others are from last names.

-Anu Garg


We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words. -Anna Sewell, writer (1820-1878)

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