Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word



Feb 1, 2021
This week’s theme

This week’s words

Faust in His Studio, c. 1840
Art: Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)

Previous week’s theme
It’s raining cats & dogs
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share
with Anu Garg

Recently, a headline in The Daily Beast read:

Alec Baldwin’s Trumpian Defense of Hilaria
(link, permalink)

The article is about the actor insisting, despite evidence to the contrary, that his wife Hilaria never claimed the fiction that she hails from Spain.

The word Trumpian is an example of an eponym, a word coined after someone (Greek epi-: upon + -onym: name). The English language has hundreds of such words, Benedict Arnold, for example, and more are added from time to time. The word Trumpian is likely to enter the dictionary, as well. It would be a fitting coda to a man who likes to see his name in giant ugly letters everywhere.

This week we’ll see five eponyms that are already part of the English language. These are coined after people real and fictional.

(Also see the word trumpery. It’s not an eponym, though it fits.)



adjective: Surrendering one’s integrity for something, such as power, money, fame, etc.

After the legend of Faust who sold his soul to the devil. Earliest documented use: 1876.

The legend of Faust is based upon a real person, Johann Georg Faust (c. 1480-1540), a magician, astrologer, and alchemist. The story has been tackled countless times, from Christopher Marlowe in his play Doctor Faustus and Goethe in his play Faust to The Simpsons episode “Bart Sells His Soul”.

For a detailed treatment of Faust, check out this BBC article. As the author summarizes, “Our challenge today is that, to some extent, we are all in a Faustian bind. We are plagued by politicians offering easy answers to complex problems -- especially when those easy answers are empty promises. The legend warns us to be wary of the cult of the ego, the seductions of fame, and the celebration of power. These are hollow triumphs, and short-lived.”

“It was a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who issued the ringing challenge to the Soviet Union ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ That party has now been transformed into Russian apologists, more concerned with defending Donald Trump than defending the country. ... They all will have their own justifications that amount to a personal Faustian bargain predicated on the self-delusion that some particular issue or cause is more important than their oath of office.”
Stuart Stevens; It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump; Knopf; 2020.

“‘It’s always been this Faustian bargain with Trump,’ Dan Eberhart admitted this week. The chief executive of Canary, a Denver-based drilling services company, had put up with ‘the ridiculousness’ associated with Donald Trump because he also delivered pro-growth policies and low taxes.
“Mr Eberhart gave $100,000 to Trump-supporting political committees and helped raise another $600,000 from other donors despite experiencing recriminations ‘all the time’ for supporting a historically divisive president, he said. 
“But having watched Wednesday’s deadly violence at the Capitol building after the president egged on a mob of supporters, he told the Financial Times: ‘I’m done. I don’t want my mom to think I’m involved with this.’”
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson; US Business Leaders Rue Their ‘Faustian Bargain’ with Trump; Financial Times (London, UK); Jan 8, 2021.

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

Let America be America again. / Let it be the dream it used to be. ... / Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed - / Let it be that great strong land of love / Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme / That any man be crushed by one above. -Langston Hughes, poet and novelist (1 Feb 1902-1967)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2022 Wordsmith