One way to help students understand that words have histories is to ask them to delve into the origins of a word created from someone's name. I give the students a list of words that originally were someone's name: guillotine, bloomers, derrick, pasteurize, macadam, boycott, mesmerize, watt, maudlin—there are many possibilities. (See useful resources below.) Students are asked to research the person and then, adopting the persona of their character, create five artifacts that illustrate both the person's life and the word his or her name became. They can create business cards, advertisements, or catalogs—their imagination is the limit. Keeping in character, they can write letters to each other.
Amelia Bloomer created a catalog of several styles of her garment—striped, polka-dotted, even a flip-down lace creation. She also made business cards. Rudolph Diesel had the complete package for a booth at the Tulsa Engine Convention: booth license, price list, catalog, sign, business cards. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin wrote to his parents, explaining the humaneness of his invention and asking them to come see it.
students bring together a couple of these people. In one inspired work,
the Fourth Earl of Sandwich recognized
the marketing potential of Louis Pasteur's invention combined with his:
"I would like to propose a plan," he writes. "Your new drink teamed
with my new `sandwich' marketed to poker players worldwide. The perfect
combination to quench the players' hunger and thirst without ever
having to leave the card table."
Funk, Charles.  1985. A Hog on Ice and Other Curious Expressions. New York: Harper and Row.
Funk, Charles.  1985. Thereby Hangs a Tale: Stories of Curious Word Origins. New York: Harper and Row.
Funk, Charles.  1986. Heavens to Betsy! and Other Curious Sayings. New York: Perennial Library.
Funk, Charles.  1986. Horsefeathers and Other Curious Words. New York: HarperPerennial.
Funk, Wilfred.  1978. Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories. New York: Bell Publishing Company.
Merriam-Webster Inc., ed. 1994. Webster's Word Histories. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc.
Onions, C. T. 1966. Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Oxford University Press.
|Enhanced vocabulary acquistion,
in-context usage, derivation, applications
words and terms for this Notables's occupation, life, era and
career e.g., in technology, the arts, politics, science, business and
|Language demands in genre,
voice, audience, style and modality