Tag Archives: eponym book

How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary


This week on Wordfoolery instead of one word I’m talking about more than 260 words, all of them eponyms and all explored in my new book, inspired by this blog, “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” and launching today.

I love that cover. Peter Sheehan did an amazing job.

The English language is a cornucopia, brimming with words to amaze and delight. Flip open a dictionary at any page and you’ll find treasure. Since 2009 I’ve explored extraordinary words weekly on the Wordfoolery blog and in 2013 I began a series of posts exploring eponyms.

I discovered the lives behind eponyms are incredibly varied and span centuries and continents – a short series of blog posts wasn’t going to be enough. Any history of the English language is also the history of the men and women who gave their names to the dictionary. This book is my tribute to them.

My eponymous heroes and heroines range from sharp-shooting teenage girls to lovers escaping palaces on bed-sheet ropes. Ingenious inventors and daring scientists feature, of course, but so do soldiers, chefs, goddesses, revolutionaries, murderers and their victims, villains galore, and an elephant. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them. If you do, please leave a review somewhere as it really helps me as an indie author.

Thanks to the Wordfoolery readers who were kind enough to suggest eponyms for inclusion (and who appear in the book as a thank you). Take a bow Nell Jenda, Rick Ellrod, Peter Sheehan, Dianne Thomas, and Rosemary Costello.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

“How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” is available on Amazon (US, UK, and elsewhere) in paperback and kindle format. You’ll also find it as an ebook on Kobo, Apple Books, and in libraries via OverDrive. All the links are below. If you can’t get it, get in touch. Thanks!













Marie Curie and her eponym


Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, I’m posting an extract from my forthcoming eponym book “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” about Marie Curie, an inspiring female scientist with a fascinating story. [Dec 2018 update – book is out now in Amazon paperback (USA and UK), and ebook for Kindle, iBooks, and on Kobo].

The curie is a unit of radioactivity and it is named for Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934).

Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win it in two different sciences (physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911). Only 5% of all Nobel Prizes awarded to date have been to women, with two of them in physics since 1901. She won her prize for physics jointly with her husband and Henri Becquerel. The committee originally intended to award it only to the two male scientists but one member told Pierre and he insisted his wife be recognised too.

She coined the term radioactivity, developed techniques to isolate radioactive isotopes, and discovered two elements – polonium and radium. She created and ran x-ray units in field hospitals in World War I. Her husband Pierre, also a scientist, dropped his own research on crystals to join her research which they conducted in a leaky shed on university grounds. They did not patent their discoveries which proved to be very valuable to industry.

Pierre died in 1906 in a traffic accident. Marie continued their work, becoming the first female professor at the University of Paris. She died many years later due to exposure to radium during her research and to x-rays during her field hospital work.

Curie studied at the clandestine flying university in Warsaw before working to fund her studies in Paris. The flying university was an educational establishment that didn’t agree with ruling policy at the time and had to meet in secret. They admitted female students and allowed the use of laboratory equipment which had been banned in schools following uprisings.

Curie’s papers, and even her cookbook, from the 1890s are so highly contaminated by radioactivity that they are stored in lead boxes and require specialist clothing to be viewed.

Curie is just one of many women to have contributed words to the dictionary. Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


End of NaNoWriMo 2016 for Wordfoolery


Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo 2016. Everywhere around the world crazy-eyed, caffeine-hyped writers are scrambling to pull words from their imaginations and pin them to the page. I know the novelists in my region are busy because our forums have fallen silent. There’s no more time for procrastination, there’s writing to do.

My own writing space is quiet too. It has transformed into a reading space. Why? Because I passed 50,000 words on Monday and my reward is a couple of days off, curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and a Neil Gaiman novel.

I’ve learned from previous NaNos (this is my tenth year in the challenge and my eighth win) that I can’t keep up the pace straight into December. So although I do need to write another 8,000 words to finish the first draft I won’t be tackling that immediately. I’ll take time to catch up on work for Scouts. I’ll finish my gift shopping. I’ll remind my garden that I love it. I’ll re-connect with my family and loved ones.

The last couple of chapters will come in their own good time. I certainly won’t forget to write about my eponymous villains. How could I omit Ponzi, de Sade, Machiavelli, Sacher-Masoch, and Quisling?

Starting NaNoWriMo is always scary, even with practice. You can’t be sure you’ll make it. You never know what November has in store. This year was no exception. The school strike stole writing days. As always, I ended up on antibiotics at one point. Our heating broke. I completely forgot my monthly column deadline and had to rush one together at very short notice. None of that matters now. I’ve a huge start made on “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” and that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

[Dec 2018 update – I finished “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” during 2017 and it’s out now in Amazon paperback (USA and UK), and ebook for Kindle, iBooks, and on Kobo.]

Until next time (when I’ll get back to unusual words) happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


(November word count 50,300)

Week Three of Wordfoolery’s NaNoWriMo 2016


It’s week three of my NaNoWriMo 2016 efforts and my scribblings are starting to look like a book. The “research pile” is turning into the “topics written pile” and I’ve become an even bigger eponym nerd. I mean, seriously, did you know serendipity is an eponym? Or that an eleven year old girl named Pluto after the Roman god of the Underworld?

A part of me is dying for a quiz to come up so I can go along and slay them with all this trivia. Another part knows I am geeky company right now. But, as I teach my children, being a geek about something means you’re passionate about it. That’s a good thing.

To “win” NaNoWriMo you have to paste a copy of your novel into their word-count widget. Obviously you could totally cheat and paste in 50,000 mentions of rhubarb but it’s an honour system. This facility opened yesterday and all around the world I know writers are doing that triumphant check already. They are validating their word count and printing off their winner’s certificate. I think that’s pretty special. At the start of the month they had an idea. Now they have the start of a story (or an entire story if it’s a short novel or novella). They have a draft they can refine, edit, tweak and eventually get somebody to read. They can call themselves writers.

Many writers, particularly in the early years, are shy about calling themselves writers but I think it’s simple. If you write stories (or articles/poems/novels/plays/limericks/whatever) on a regular basis then you’re a writer. It actually doesn’t matter if your story ends up on the bestseller lists. It matters that you sit down and write. Talking about writing doesn’t count.

Write enough and you will improve. Write enough and people will want to read your stories. They will enter other people’s brains and imaginations and in some small way, change the world.

Until next time happy writing,

Grace (38,257 words written – the end is in sight!)

p.s. yes I know it’s technically week four of NaNo, but it’s my third Monday which is when I blog


Wordfoolery’s Week Two in NaNoWriMo 2016

Sheffry Sunset

Sheffry Sunset


Today is the halfway point in NaNoWriMo 2016 and I’ve reached the halfway point in my eponym history book, “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” despite running away for the weekend.

Regular readers will know that I’m a Scout leader (or adult scouter as we’re known these days). Each year there’s a national training weekend for leaders to improve their hill-walking skills called the Mountain Moot and unfortunately it’s scheduled right in the middle of NaNo. I totally shouldn’t go along, but I do anyway convincing myself that taking off three writing days will return me with renewed writing vim and vigour.

That is not always the case but it does have an advantage. Do a tough enough hike and your leg muscles will prevent you from wandering too far from your writing desk for a few days. I won’t be walking anywhere for a day or two but perhaps the memories of mountain ranges stretching from Killary Harbour to Clare Island will inspire me?

Plus, how could I, as a Tolkien fan, resist a meeting called a moot? I didn’t spot any ents though. They were probably hiding in the clouds that shrouded the summit of Sheffry.

Oh and the teachers’ strike I was lamenting last week has been put on pause pending talks. Clearly I was a wonderful home-school teacher as my eldest danced and sang around the room when he heard he could return to school. Ah well, I’ll just have to stick to the writing then.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Wordcount = 26,153


Wordfoolery’s Week One in NaNoWriMo


I’m one week into this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge and as life always does in November, it has thrown me a curve ball. My eldest child’s school is on strike, potentially for the next six weeks.


I actually agree with the teachers, but I do wish they’d held off until December to register their protest. I now have a teenager in the house with me during my usual writing hours and because I don’t want him to fall behind, I’m effectively home-schooling him (in twelve subjects) while writing a book in any spare minute I can grab. The temptation to use him to do my research is strong, but he’s not that easy to fool, sadly.

My decision to be a #NaNoRebel and write non-fiction has proven to be as tricky as I feared in October. I can normally count on 2,000 words of fiction in a two hour writing session, but I’m finding that 2,000 words of non-fiction is taking 3-4 hours. This is partly because I am still researching on the fly and partly because I am used to highly polishing my non-fiction as I write it so I am breaking a second major NaNo rule – I’m editing as I go (the ML in me gasps as I admit this sacrilege).

It will still need significant editing over the winter, but the first draft will be more like a second draft, I hope. Chapters are emerging. My love of hats has produced a chapter entirely about the people behind the names of hats like stetson, fedora, trilby, balaclava, bowler etc. I’m writing every day and the book is starting to sing.

Meantime the writers in my region are writing like a butcher’s delivery boy peddling his bike past a dogs’ home. I’m so proud of them.

Until next week happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


“How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” – 14,407 words written so far

Twas the Night Before NaNoWriMo


castle-leslie-autumn The leaves are falling, the trick or treaters have gone to bed, the fireworks are dying down and in under two hours it will be November and here on Wordfoolery that means just one thing – NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been hooked since 2007 on the creative challenge to write 50,000 words (or more) in just 30 days. I volunteer my time as a mentor for my Ireland North East region and earlier today I hosted my first meeting of the month – the Kick Off – where local writers can meet each other, pickup some NaNo stickers and ask any questions they have.

Tomorrow the hard work starts. Every day from now until the end of the month I’ll be writing 2,000 words a day on my latest book “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” a non-fiction book documenting the people whose names gave us words – fascinating histories of inventors, soldiers, scientists, etc inspired by the eponym series here on Wordfoolery. Many thanks to the blog readers who suggested eponyms for inclusion in the book.

NaNo is designed for those writing fiction books, not non-fiction, so this year I’ll be a #NaNoRebel and during my research phase I’ve been realising why non-fiction is discouraged. It’s because writing 2,000 words of non-fiction takes longer than writing 2,000 words of fiction due to the research required. The good news is that advance research is totally allowed in NaNo, the bad news is that the time I’d allocated for this wasn’t long enough. Ah yes, it’s going to be an “interesting” November this year.

I’ll be checking in here once a week with my progress and my normal wordy fun will resume in December. If you’re trying NaNo yourself then I wish you the best of luck. Whether you make it to 50,000 words or not, you will discover some truths about your writing and hopefully write more than you ever have before.

Until next time happy writing, reading and wordfooling,