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Things Unexpectedly Named After People (rolandcrosby.com)
433 points by vortex_ape on July 19, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 289 comments

I find this post and comments to be surprisingly delightful. I'll aggregate the scattered gems in the comments here:

- Sideburns : Named after the American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside.

- Heaviside function (a mathematical step function) : named after Oliver Heaviside

- The Children's python (animal) : Named after John George Children.

- Snowflake, AZ : Named after Erastus Snow and William Jordon Flake.

- Lake Mountain, Victoria : No lake. Named after George Lake, who was the Surveyor-General of the area including the mountain.

[*] Search for the relevant comment for more info and references.

Sadly, I can't edit the comment anymore. Here are a few more.

- German Chocolate Cake - Named after the English-American chocolate maker Samuel German.

- Baker's Chocolate (popular American brand of baking chocolate) - Named after Dr. William Baker

- Loop subdivision (CG term) - Named after its inventor Charles Loop.

- French Hill (neighborhood in Jerusalem) - Named after British general John French. (Disputed)

- Mobile Homes (my absolute favorite) - Named after their place of fabrication, Mobile Alabama. Bonus fact (mine): The product's original name (that sadly didn't catch on) was "Sweet Homes" after their inventor James Sweet! And The 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” was a reworking of a 1951 radio jingle advertising “Sweet Homes, Alabama.”

The Mobile Homes one is a fake story made up by Snopes for their TRoLL section. It's not true. There was no business called Sweet Homes in Mobile, and the prefab housing industry did not originate there.

Manufactured houses really did grow out of the camper/trailer industry. The name "mobile home" is a holdover from when they had wheels. The first companies to deliver prefab houses to set on foundations already had thriving businesses making trailer-homes or other prefab structures (like those seen on construction sites)

Another food item:

– Caesar salad — named after Caesar Cardini, a restauranteur in San Diego and Tijuana [1]

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_salad

I don't think it's unexpectedly named after a person, but it may qualify as named after an unexpected person.

Nachos are also named after a person - a maitre d' named Ignacio, who needed to come up with something to serve one night after his chef had already left). The word "Nazi" comes from the same root, a nickname for Ignatz used to make fun of Bavarian peasants.

According to Snopes, the song "Sweet Home Alabama" was actually inspired by a radio commercial for "Sweet Homes" that had aired decades earlier. Full circle.

You fell for a Snopes TRoLL. They made that story up. Mobile homes are called that because they can move. There was never a mobile home company called "sweet homes", and the industry does not originate in Mobile.

The ultimate troll entry for me on Snopes is:

> So how did this claim arise? In a 1993 PC Professional article, columnist Lisa Holst wrote about the ubiquitous lists of “facts” that were circulating via e-mail and how readily they were accepted as truthful by gullible recipients. To demonstrate her point, Holst offered her own made-up list of equally ridiculous “facts,” among which was the statistic cited above about the average person’s swallowing eight spiders per year, which she took from a collection of common misbeliefs printed in a 1954 book on insect folklore. In a delicious irony, Holst’s propagation of this false “fact” has spurred it into becoming one of the most widely-circulated bits of misinformation to be found on the Internet.

This is NOT in their "TroLL" section -- it is not clearly marked as being a fake fact.

See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/swallow-spiders/ .

Yet if you do the homework -- other people have, and I have tried to reproduce it myself -- there is no such source. See https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/2094/is-a-write... for example.

This Snopes article cites a column reportedly called "Reading Is Believing" from a periodical called "PC Professional", page 71, date 7 January 1993. I was unable to find the existence of any such periodical although there is "PC professionnel", published in German, ISSN 0939-5822, whose archives seem to only be available in German libraries (and I have not reviewed those).

However, I was able to find in the Cornell University archives, a quarterly periodical called the Cornell Engineer, which carried a column by a student columnist dated April 1992 (Volume 56 number 2, page 24, column title "Stress and Strain", author Margot Anne-Stephanie Vigeant '94). That seems to predate the January 1993 citation given in the Snopes article, and the 1992 student-publication column text says in part

> My first topic for this issue is worries. I've decided that there are just too many well adjusted, un-paranoid people in this school (NOT), so I've decided to wreck their peace of mind by sharing a list of my favorite worries with them. These are the kind of things that just jump into your mind right before you're about to fall asleep - horrible little night gremlins whose goal it is to keep you up just a little bit longer. So here they are, hope you can sleep after this:

> The average person swallows eight spiders while sleeping, in their lifetime. What if all eight show up tonight?

Meanwhile the source that Snopes apparently made up, Lisa Birgit Holst, is an anagram for "This is a big troll".

It's just odd. Their debunking contains a pointless lie; there is a real citation available they chose not to use.

Gotta wonder about their other debunkings, which is the whole point, really: They salt their site with lies to keep you on your toes.

For the benefit of anyone else reading fabrication is the key word in the origin of “Mobile homes”

I believe French drains were invented by an engineer named James French

Lynyrd Skynyrd themselves should be on that list.

I like Mobile home especially because of affects how you write it, and how you say it.

The joys of English… Where the exact same word can have two different pronunciations depending on the context.

One I'm fond of is Angel Falls[1] in Venezuela, named after aviator Jimmie Angel.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Falls

Student’s T-test/distribution:


Waterfall Glen, a forest preserve outside Chicago, IL, has a waterfall but is named after Seymour Waterfall.


Millbrae, California (suburb of San Francisco-San Jose right next to SFO) is a conjunction of Mill and 'brae.' Mill refers to Darius Ogden Mills (at one point the richest person in California) who purchased the land in 1860 and brae is a Scottish word for "rolling hills". [1]

Longyearbyen in Svalbard (Longyear Town), the main settlement, is named after John Monro Longyear, an American coal magnate from Michigan [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millbrae,_California

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longyearbyen

Nice. As an aside, how do you pronounce Heaviside? Is it hevy-side or heevy-side or...?

From the IPA pronunciation guide of Oliver Heaviside's wikipedia page (mouse over the bit in parenthesis right after his name at the top of the page), "heavy side", with a slight emphasis on the first syllable of "heavy".


At university in the UK it was always pronounced heavy-side.

Same. I guess I'll continue saying it that way. But I always feel so awkward about it!

My first interpretation was heveh-side or hevi-side.

I have no idea what the correct pronunciation is. But between you and me, I think we have some viable candidates.

Heavy side - it’s a pun

There is also a King Street in London's Hammersmith. The surprising bit is that, in a city full of places named after various monarch, it was named after bishop John King.

A potential addition: - Pink Lake [1] in Quebec, Canada named for the Pink family who cleared land in the area.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_Lake_(Canada)

Adidas = Adi Dassler

This doesn't belong in the category, since it's obviously a name. If it were called "Running Shoes" because the company founder was named "Running", then it would belong..

It wasn't obviously a name to me. Next you'll say Nike is a name!

What's "Adidas" to you then? the examples show nouns or adjectives that turn out to be the inventor's name (like PageRank, you think it's from "web pages", but oh, it's from "Larry Page", or "Main Street", where you think it's because it's the primary street, but oh, it's actually named after a Mr. Main).

So what noun or adjective is "Adidas"?

I'm going to complain about being downvoted and I'm gonna grumpily say even HN isn't immune to anti-intellectualism...

I had thought both Adidas and Nike were made up words, like Kodak.

Not sure if you were trying to make a joke, but Nike is the Greek goddess of victory.

What a coincidence!

It doesn't belong in the same way that Debian doesn't.

The good ones in the list are good because they are not obviously a name of a person, the name of the thing makes sense independently to it being named after a person.

"Lake Mountain" could easily be named that because it is a mountain with a lake, so it is interesting that Lake Mountain is named after someone named Lake; Adidas and Debian are unexpected simply because they don't look like the name of a person, or anything else!

French's mustard -> Robert Timothy French.

Most of these are great. Taco Bell makes sense to me however - I didn't expect to buy bells there. If it had been named after a Melanie Taco or similar, THAT would've been notable.

My contribution: Lake Mountain in Victoria!

"There is no lake at Lake Mountain, the area was named after George Lake, who was the Surveyor-General of the area including the mountain."


I had always assumed the bell managed to reference both a dinner bell (food) and a mission bell (California, with its Hispanic population, hence Tex-Mex). I'm blown away it's just the founder's name.

Tex-Mex is from Texas... that's what the Tex part is, and it's distinct from Cali-Mex, because while both cuisines originated from Mexican influence into the area using local ingredients and traditional techniques, the ingredients were different and the influences originated from different regions of Mexico which heavily influenced the cuisine. Tex-Mex originated with the Tejanos who resided in Texas while it was still part of Mexico and mostly originated from Central and Northern Mexico while Cali-Mex is predominantly a result of immigration that occurred later on mostly from Western/Coastal Mexico.

Tex-Mex and Cali-Mex aren't the same thing, and California has no claim to Tex-Mex...

I've never heard the term Cali-Mex, but I'd say that Taco Bell is way closer to Tex-Mex than any other taco places in SoCal, which are generally much more authentic.

Taco Bell isn’t Tex-Mex, it’s corporatized and white-washed fast food. You won’t find Tex-Mex in California... that’s kind of the point.

I appreciate many different cuisines, so I am not saying Tex-Mex is better than Cali-Mex, just that they’re different. Bringing Taco Bell into the equation and saying it’s representative is deeply insulting to Tex-Mex, however.

My favorite "Tex-Mex" is from SLC, Utah. "Ute-Mex"?

They don’t serve food like any of the taquerias here in Texas, maybe superficially similar... they do serve burritos which are more Cali mex.

The Mexican food in what is now Texas already I used a a lot of beef and cheese before it became part of America

I don't believe it would have been called Taco Smith. It happened to be that the dudes last name made sense in the context of a dinner bell being rung for tacos.

Taco John’s is a reasonably successful chain with a similar name.

That really isn't similar in terms of usage. "Taco John" is a person's nickname. (And then, Taco John's is just the place that belongs to Taco John.) But you wouldn't call someone by their last name.

Richard and Maurice McDonald, Wilber Hardee, and Little Caesars are all counter examples.

Little Caesar's is named after a Mr. Little? That would be a perfect addition to this page

Little Caesar was a co-founder’s nickname.

They're examples of someone being nicknamed off of their last name instead of their first name? How so?

Caesar isn't even a last name.

> They're examples of someone being nicknamed off of their last name instead of their first name?

McDonald's, Hardee's.

> Caesar isn't even a last name.

Worked out fine for Julius.

You're going to have to elaborate. What nickname do you see in "McDonald's" or "Hardee's"? What do you mean by "worked out fine for Julius"? You are aware that Julius Caesar's surname was "Julius", right?

OK, well, I am taking cognomen as surname, as is common when referring to him today, by nomen + cognomen. Never met the man or had the joy of calling him Gaius.

There are modern people today with a surname of Caesar. Somehow, the name of the late celebrity Sid Caesar pops up for me. Wikipedia has more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesar_(surname) -- and I know of other languages where their cognate for Caesar is also a surname.

But yes, it is common to address people by their last name as a nickname. I seem to recall it was especially common back in school, something guys did kind of informally. Plenty of reasons explained here: https://www.google.com/search?q=call+someone+by+last+name

I also recall nickname variations of various surnames. Somebody called Fitzgerald might be called Fitz. Somebody called Smith might be called Smitty. Those are two I recall from school days.

And yes clearly, McDonald's and Hardee's are named for surnames.

> I am taking cognomen as surname, as is common when referring to him today, by nomen + cognomen.

Huh? "Caesar" is how he's generally referred to, almost certainly because the form of address to every Roman emperor was "Caesar", after him. But there's no indication that it is taken to be his surname. That would be ridiculous.

There is no pattern for the common English name of a Roman figure:

- Virgil: nomen

- Ovid: nomen

- Martial: cognomen

- Catullus: cognomen (of possible note: Martial and Catullus have the same nomen)

- Cicero: cognomen, but sometimes referred to by nomen as "Tully"

- Antony: nomen

- Brutus: cognomen

- Pliny the Elder: nomen

- Catiline: cognomen

It's purely convention whether they're known by surname or personal name.

Similarly, what are the surnames of, as they are known in English, Mao Tse-tung, Chiang Kai-shek, or Sun Yat-sen?

You seem to have ignored most of my comment for this discussion.

I can respond to the rest of it. I wanted to know where the idea that it's common to view the cognomen as a surname came from. It's bizarre.

> There are modern people today with a surname of Caesar. Somehow, the name of the late celebrity Sid Caesar pops up for me. Wikipedia has more

Not really relevant when the claim was that (1) Little Caesars is named after someone's surname; and/or (2) Caesar was Julius Caesar's surname. Both of those claims are obviously false.

> yes clearly, McDonald's and Hardee's are named for surnames.

But I've been saying this whole time that "Taco Smith" is not similar to "Taco John's", because "Taco John's" is named after a notional owner, Taco John, whereas you couldn't call someone "Taco Smith". (And of course, even if you did, you wouldn't expect the restaurant to have the same name as the owner.)

McDonald's and Hardee's are not evidence that anyone ever referred to anyone as "McDonald" or "Hardee". They're names, not nicknames.

> But yes, it is common to address people by their last name as a nickname. I seem to recall it was especially common back in school, something guys did kind of informally. Plenty of reasons explained here: https://www.google.com/

This isn't common at all. What country are you thinking of?

> This isn't common at all. What country are you thinking of?

Very very common in my childhood in the northeastern and mid Atlantic United States. I have heard it from west coaters too.

No answer to the nickname "Smitty"? It is a common one, derived from Smith. You can Google it.

None of those use the food an adjective /adjacent nickname. They are all possessives.

Taco Bill is pretty popular in Australia.

That just sounds like what they bring you after you've eaten the tacos.

Taco smith would be an interesting restaurant, maybe using an anvil as a logo instead of a bell

The Taco Smith is going in to my next D&D game.

The Elo rating system in chess is often written in capital letters, but it is not an acronym. It is named after its creator Arpad Elo.


A double twist is that in the original Hungarian his name is Élő that means "Live". For the first few decades of hearing "Élő"-score, I just assumed it meant your "live" score, as in your score at the current time. I wonder if others had that confusion too.

In chess there's even a difference between the "live elo rating" which is calculated every match, and the official FIDE rating updated every month.

My favourite is the Heaviside function [1], which is named after Oliver Heaviside [2], who just happened to have an appropriate name for a function with one heavy side!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaviside_step_function

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Heaviside

There is also the Poynting Vector [1] named after John H. Poynting [2] that "points" in the direction that electromagnetic energy is flowing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poynting_vector

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_Poynting

Sadly not quite in the same vein, but the Killing field seems rather vicious until you know it's just named after Wilhelm Killing. (EDIT: Sorry, I didn't notice klyrs mentioned it 2 hours ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23890735 .)

Or Čech cohomology, usually denoted with the check "v" above characters.

I don't have a clue about the math, but I liked the puns in the preface to Knuth's "Concrete Mathematics":

"When [Knuth] taught Concrete Mathematics at Stanford for the first time, he explained the somewhat strange title by saying that it was his attempt to teach a math course that was hard instead of soft. He announced that, contrary to the expectations of some of his colleagues, he was not going to teach the Theory of Aggregates, nor Stone's Embedding Theorem, nor even the Stone-Čech compactification. (Several students from the civil engineering department got up and quietly left the room.)"


It's a joke between students of quantum mechanics that to get operator from a function according to the principle of least action you have to put "^" above the function name.

(Čech means "a Czech person")

I thought so, but thanks for doubleczeching.

The color #663399 is named "rebeccapurple", after Rebecca Meyer, who passed away at age 6. https://css-tricks.com/rebbeccapurple-663399/

was unexpected to me when i first learned CSS, and now is a bittersweet memory i gladly pass on.

Named by Eric Meyer, one of the inventors of CSS. His blog posts on Rebecca are heartbreaking: https://meyerweb.com/eric/thoughts/category/personal/rebecca...

heavy read. thanks for sharing. i'm gonna go hug my sister.

That hit hard. Thanks for sharing.

It's pretty sad that "rebecca" is misspelled in the css-tricks.com URL.

Heartbreaking but what a wonderful way to memorialize her. Thanks for sharing.

6 year olds dying of brain cancer is my best evidence for the non existence of God

I'm surprised that should he exist, everyone assumes he is obligated to interdict himself in the affairs of men. If I'm honest, it's a little arrogant of us.

he canonically created us, didn't he? got to be at least a little bit interested. tho of course I don't see the point of debating the motivations of a fictional character

Bluetooth, a union of different communication protocols, after King Harold Bluetooth, 10th century uniter of Danish tribes.


It's almost an insult to his legacy.

It should be named after a slow, cumbersome, finicky and controversial leader who occasionally brought things together, but only temporarily.

Cromwell would suffice

Sideburns aren't called sideburns just because they're on the sides of your face; sideburns were originally called burnsides after the American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrose_Burnside#Sideburns

Who decided to flip the words though

I believe it was Thomas J Flip, in 1911.

Flip Wilson, comedian and volleyball inventor.

Chip Flip, inventor of the Flip Chip.

He's also the godfather of the Big and Little Indian Brothers.

Perhaps apropos to this thread: The closest airport to Oracle’s headquarters is San Carlos, which has the airport code SQL. The airport and code were around long before the database company, however.

There seem to be two meanings of “unexpected” not being differentiated here:

1) name-derived terms like Debian, or the French ‘poubelle’ in the comments, which have become genericized to the point where most of its users don’t know the derivation

2) a more interesting subset of (1), like PageRank, or Lake Mountain in the comments, where part or all of the name itself looks like a normal word appropriate for the situation. (a related concept is nominative determinism https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_determinism)

We can add a third one where the name comes from a person that was likely named after a place, which is why it looks normal (Westlake, Outerbridge).

And for #2, most of them are surely done knowing that there's a double meaning, but the origin has been left behind. There's probably a few names that are now more associated with the person than the original pun.

I agree with your distinction, but for a long time I wrongly believed the -ian in Debian was a suffix meaning "relating to" as in reptilian or antediluvian. I didn't have a guess what the first part meant, but I thought it might be a nonsense syllable.

Munich has (at least) two streets unexpectedly named after people - Passauerstraße and Dessauerstraße. The problem of these people is that their names are derived from well-known cities, so everyone just assumes that the streets are named after the cities. The only thing indicating that they are actually named after people is that the street names are written as one word - streets named after places are supposed to be written as two words (e.g. Landshuter Allee), but many people get this wrong even without this twist...

Also, the term "Guy" which is an eponym for Guy Fawkes https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/guy#Etymology_1

And it's obverse, Che. (The famous person is named after the generic word for "some guy")

When I first encountered that in a Facebook post, I was skeptical but since I happened to be at the library at the time and mere feet away from a hardcopy OED. The OED corroborated it.

Whenever I think of Guy I think of that one Guy from Galaxy Quest. I don't know if he even had a last name though.

Guy Fleegman

I like to think of him as Crewman number 6.

Quite obvious omission for every C/C++ programmer, but:


Of course the "offical" name is "Compiler Explorer", but everybody just refers to it as "Godbolt" (probably because of the URL), which I thought is a weird but interesting name for a programming tool until I learned much too late that a certain "Matt Godbolt" has created it :D

The striking name has led to confusion: https://twitter.com/mcclure111/status/1085770107899576320?s=...

And an Emacs plugin. :o) https://github.com/rurban/rmsbolt

Silhouette, named for a French finance minister back in the 18th century. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silhouette

Eponyms can be very weird sometimes. The path from austerity-pushing minister to artistic rendering of outline in profile must have been a bit odd.

Related to austerity, Melba Toast.

German Chocolate Cake owes its name to an English-American chocolate maker named Samuel German.

You might make your German Chocolate Cake with Baker's Chocolate, a popular American brand of baking chocolate, named for Dr. William Baker, who founded a chocolate importing company.

Not so much you might, but you most likely would have used Baker's chocolate: Mr. German, the baker/chocolatier, worked for Baker's chocolate when he invented his dark chocolate formulation, and German's chocolate was sold under the Baker's Chocolate brand. All this took place over 150 yrs ago.

The cake made from German's chocolate was invented by a housewife in the 1950's and the recipe published in a newspaper; General Foods, by then the owner of Bakers, took notice and started to include the recipe in its packaging.



This sounds like one of those explinations for how they make Starbursts so juicy.

except it was just a factual description of history, condensed, but taut and clarifying of possible misconceptions, and nothing about recipes or flavors or any other organileptic properties.

I get the impression that my comment came across as an insult. If so, that was not my intent.

Not to sound like I'm on Reddit, but in the category of surprising and infuriating, this one takes the cake.

That's a great one

This phenomenon exists in the German language as well. The "Schwarzschild" in Schwarzschild radius literally means "black shield", but it is in fact named after Karl Schwarzschild.

On the other hand, there are terms like eigenvector/eigenvalue, which literally mean "own"-vector/"own"-value in German. When I first learned that they still have the "eigen" prefix when translated to English, I immediately assumed that they are named after some mathematician named Eigen. To my surprise, that was not the case -- for some reason, mathematicians did indeed decide to use the German word for "own" as a prefix.

Going by Wikipedia titles, English seems to be the odd one out when it comes to eigenvectors. E.g.:

* Swedish: egenvektor

* Spanish: vector propio/autovectore

* Italian: autovettore

* Finnish: ominaisvektori

* Turkish: özvektör

I think autovector would have been a good English term.

Buses are often called "pullman" in Italy. For long time I thought it was because the pull men (and women) along the road, but instead it appears there are named after some George Pullman.

Also in Italy, the loop highway around Rome is known as GRA, which stands for "Grande Raccordo Anulare" ("Big Annular Highway"), but that is just a backronym: originally it is also the surname of Eugenio Gra, the engineer who designed it.

> Buses are often called "pullman" in Italy. For long time I thought it was because the pull men (and women) along the road, but instead it appears there are named after some George Pullman.

Known in the US as the eponym of sleeper cars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_(car_or_coach) .

Related to "big annular": why does the Latin word for ring have a diminutive suffix (-ulus), even when it refers to big rings? Well, of course because anus came to refer to one very specific ring.

I am not sure of what is the historical order of things: in Latin the word "anus" does also mean "ring" or "circle", although it later came to only retain its anatomical meaning, while its diminutive retained the general meaning. But as for what caused what, I have no idea.

Let me just note that there are other words that descend from the Latin diminutive instead of the basic form. For example, "castrum" with its diminutive "castellum" became "castello" in Italian and "castle" in English, while the base form was retained only in toponyms (the suffix "chester" in English and "castro" in Italian). As for "anellus", I see no compelling reason to use the diminutive instead of the base form. I guess it's just an artifact of time (with a funny result: since Italian has again suffixes for diminutive and augmentative, we can use the words "castellino" and "castellone", literally a "little little castrum" and "big little castrum"; confusing!).

"Chapel" is another example. (It descends from a word meaning "little cape".)

Similar story: Kicking Horse Pass. (BC Canada)

Most think it a native name, that there was some warrior or chief named "Kicking Horse" and that we should rename the pass to give it a proper pronounciation in the native language. I've seen people protest about this (1990s, pre-wikipedia) and try to locate the historical person of which there are a few with that name. The reality is that one of the guys surveying the pass was literally kicked by his horse. No translation needed.


A little less exciting, but Roger's Pass (another mountain pass between BC and Alberta) was named after... Major A. B. Rogers was hired in April 1881 by the railway company to find the pass with the promise of having the pass named after him and a $5000 bonus. [1].

$5000 is worth ~$125,000 today. Not a bad reward.


In my hometown there's a shop with two big signs: "Puertas Motos" and "Motos Puertas". I've always passed by too fast, by car, so I can't tell if it's some guy whose name is Puertas selling motorbikes or some guy called Motos selling doors.

On the topic of things unexpectedly not named after people...

There's a big sign on a somewhat run-down looking building on a main street in my city, that says "GENTILES". Turns out it's a company that makes flooring - i.e. short for "general tiles".

Also, there's a chain of restaurants in the northeastern US called "Friendly's" that was founded by people named "Blake", not "Friendly". It was originally named "Friendly" ice cream from 1935-1989, but eventually added the apostrophe-s because people insisted on calling it that. It still gives me a little Mandela-effect type dissonance because I remember when the logo didn't match what people said and now it does.

I remember being slightly surprised when I learned that Friendly's was founded by Prestley Blake (not by someone named Friendly), but because he was an alumnus of and major donor to my high school, this fact sort of got drummed into me to the extent that I eventually considered it strange that other people didn't know who the founder was!

I think also remember that name change.

That's awesome! Is it in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain? If so, I just looked it up and vg ybbxf yvxr gurl ner n qbbe naq jvaqbj fhccyl fgber, juvpu vf gb fnl gur frpbaq bs lbhe gjb cbffvovyvgvrf. (I don't want to spoil it for you if you're enjoying the ambiguity.)

Chiclana, a little to the south.

Edit: looked it up and it's a guy named Motos selling doors :-)


In french, a waste container is called "une poubelle". From the name of the prefect Eugène Poubelle who decided the collection of waste in Paris in 1884. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poubelle

This isn't just a list of things named after people, but "unexpectedly named". For example "Main Street" being named after a person is surprising since you'd usually expect it to come from "main" in the sense of "principal". "Price Club" is funny since you'd expect that it's referring to low prices.

Is there another pre-existing meaning for "poubelle" that makes this naming unexpected?

> Is there another pre-existing meaning for "poubelle" that makes this naming unexpected?

I mean, it _is_ the French term for "trash can".

It might be surprising to you, for example, if you'd suddenly find out that trash cans are named after "Michael Trashcan" or something along those lines.

It's a "can" that one puts "trash" into, so the term appears descriptive on the surface. When it then turns out to just be named after the inventor, it would indeed be quite surprising. Which is why I was asking whether there was some pre-existing meaning for the word. Otherwise it's like:

Oh my God! I just realized that Zeppelins were invented by Graf von Zeppelin. What are the odds of the person inventing airships also having the last name that airships are often called by?

I see your point and perhaps my example was poorly chosen. A better one would've been "a bin by Frederik Bin" or something along those lines. Poubelle is an everyday item, a term that the average person uses daily (and without knowing the exact etymology, I'd wager). And with that in mind, Zeppelin appears to be a poor comparison on your part.

The surprising thing is not that he invented the poubelle. It’s that he’s just one elected official in one city who increased its usage. I’m on the other side of the Atlantic, in beautiful Québec, and we also call it une poubelle.

It’s as if computers were called Jobs machines.

The word poubelle isn't capitalised, so it was surprising to me that it was from a name. In contrast, Zeppelin being capitalised gives the game away.

It's a different thing to some of the 'surprises' here, but interesting and I'm glad it was shared.

Can you believe Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig's Disease

It's a bit how in British English vacuum cleaners are often called "Hoovers" after the brand. At one hand, yes, it is a family name, but the word has become so genericized that people even talk about "hoovering" their carpet and any connection to a name is lost.

And young children (and occasionally their parents jocularly imitating them) talk about "hooving" the carpet, because a "hoover" is obviously a machine for "hooving", right?

It behooves those parents to teach them the proper verb.

“Is the FBI in the habit of cleaning up after multiple murders?!!”

“Of course. Why do you think it’s run by a man called Hoover?”

This was a joke in the ‘80s Clue movie; albeit probably funnier to the English writer and the English actor saying the lines, as Hoover as a generecized trademark for vacuum cleaner is more popular there.

Even in the US, it's such a well-known brand that the joke still works well, despite Hoover not being so dominant as to have become the generic word for vacuum cleaner.

To vacuum, vacuuming, vacuumed

I think you're reading too much into the list. What's the non-name meaning of "Debian" supposed to be?

That one stood out as not seeming to fit the theme of the list to me. I dont think debian should have been included

It’s still unexpected

I had always just assumed it was a nonce word, like Kodak.

Named after a person named "Deb" (without the ian). Like the word "Jeffersonian" meaning the philosophy attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

No, Ian is just another name (Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian). Deb is after Debra, who then was his girlfriend and then wife. After that Murdock left Debian and the two divorced, but the name had stuck and there it is still now.

No, I know that's the real origin. I'm saying how the name could be interpreted other than deb+ian

Ah, my bad, sorry.

So kind of like how Thomas Crapper invented the modern toilet.

Dang. Beat me by 2 min.

There's another one, closer to home: dang.

I'd always thought the comment's attributes name was because "dang, time to chastise another one" but it turns out that "Dan G" is (maybe) a person!

Man, look at all that karma fly out of the window... Oops. Wrong site!

I was confused by Hamming Windows and Hanning Windows. At first I though Hanning was a typo for Hamming, but no, they are both similar but slightly different things, named after different people.


Hamming and Hanning

These two similarly-named Hamming and Hanning (more properly referred to as Hann) window functions both have a sinusoidal shape. The difference between them is that the Hanning window touches zero at both ends, removing any discontinuity. The Hamming window stops just shy of zero, meaning that the signal will still have a slight discontinuity.


The Outerbridge Crossing really surprised me! I had always assumed it was the most outer bridge crossing from New Jersey into New York.

Another piece of local infrastructure named after the architect is the Holland Tunnel. It’s not named after the region in Europe and has no relation to New York originally being settled by the Dutch.

Not eponymous, but I've always thought it strange that there's no connection between the names of Jamaica in Queens and the Carribean island.

It's called a "crossing" because otherwise it would be the "Outerbridge Bridge".

Vacaville, CA - vaca is Spanish for cow, and is home to cattle ranches. Despite many people thinking that it means "cow town", it's actually named for the settler Juan Manuel Cabeza Vaca.

"Cabeza de Vaca" is a family name meaning "cow head". There was a guy in my elementary school with that name. He had a big head, for what is worth.

The health assessment Apgar Score, named for its inventor Dr Virginia Apgar, but frequently assumed to be an acronym/initialisation and spelled as APGAR.


What about the D C Power Building which houses the Stanford AI Lab? It was named after Donald Clinton Power.

The Children's python: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_python. Not actually a suitable pet for children, rather it's named after John George Children.

My contribution: Snowflake, AZ named after Erastus Snow and William Jordon Flake (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowflake,_Arizona).

The Mars bar was named after the company, which was named after the person, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Clarence_Mars . Also, M&M's.

Thanks for clearing that up for me. When I saw that the Aldi copy of a Mars bar is called Titan[1], I idly wondered if they were continuing a theme of celestial objects or Greco-Roman deities.

I had been leaning more towards the celestial object them due to the existence of Galaxy chocolate[2] and Milky Way bars[3]. On the other hand, Snickers bars [4] were called Marathon bars when I was growing up and this could have been a reference to the classical Greek battle (the Wikipedia page doesn’t say where this name comes from but I’d guess that it’s intended to imply that the bar will provide you with enough energy to a long distance).

[1] https://external-preview.redd.it/w9bXzLbNqBFPIEnkI8H73sV5D8n...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dove_(chocolate)

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way_(chocolate_bar)

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snickers

There is a Texas town called Iraan that I assumed when passing through it must have something to do with the Mideast country, but is actually much more simply named after Ira and Ann. (So why not Iraann?)


That always baffled me. Never bothered to check. Thanks.

Loop subdivision, commonly used in CG: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loop_subdivision_surface

Actually named after its inventor Charles Loop.

The city of Morgan Hill, CA is actually named after the rancher in the area, not the hill that’s in the city limits. That’s called El Toro.


Going down the wiki rabbit hole on this led me to the very sad history of Ian Murdock, founder of Debian (Deb was his girlfriend's name at the time). Apparently he hanged himself in 2015 after a somewhat bizarre tweet storm announcing his suicide.

I have no corroboration for this, it is a personal speculation.

At Sun, Ian Murdock also started an OS project called “Indiana”. I have wondered if this was a happy coincidence that Ian was substring of Indiana. Of course, he also lived in that state.

In fact Ian moved back here (Indiana) to found Progeny, before working at Sun. I was sufficiently shocked to find a genuine Linux company in Indiana I had to apply immediately.

I remember discussing Ian Murdock's death on HN at the time, feels like it was only like a year ago, not several.


Ian Murdock( his name ) & his wife name debra ...debian. (wkipedia)

docker Inc ....Not sure if its coincidence...he was working for Docker Inc. (Ian Murdock...last four letters "dock" docker inc.)... However very sad ending..another gem lost de excessive poiice harassment....like aaron.

There's a common story that referring to a toilet as a "crapper" was related to Thomas Crapper. Apparently, not true, despite his influence in the field. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Crapper

That is true of Sandwich (earl of) tho, which I find fun.

Cheddar, also. Which is the reason cheeses from anywhere can be called a cheddar as long as it is made the right way.

Poubelle, the trash can In French is directly named after a Mr Poubelle.

I recently discover that mesmerize is also named after a person


Pleasanton, CA

From Wikipedia:

"Its name came from John W. Kottinger, an Alameda County justice of the peace, who named it after his friend, Union army cavalry Major General Alfred Pleasonton. A typographical error by a recording clerk in Washington, D.C., apparently led to the current spelling."

A list of transcription errors that changed the names of people and places would be interesting.

There was a local manufacturing company in Indianapolis that seemingly couldn’t keep its own name consistent: a buggy maker founded by two brothers named Parry also used the name “Perry” at times.

French Hill neighborhood in Jerusalem.

Named after British general John French.

Amusingly, erroneously translated into Hebrew as giv'at tzarfatit - the word for the French nationality.

* Full disclosure: Wikipedia claims it's not true. But it's disputed and I have heard this story from local historians.

> Named after British general John French.

Who drove me crazy in an audiobook I listened to recently on WWI, whose author, one can only assume intentionally, kept deploying phrases like (very roughly paraphrased from memory) "As a British officer, French hated and distrusted the French, who resented being commanded by a Briton."

Pilates are named after Joe Pilates


Leatherman multitools are named after the inventor, Timothy S. Leatherman.

Fuchsia is named after Leonhart Fuchs, which makes it much easier to spell once you know.

Tarmac is an abbreviation of tarmacadam, which is named for John Loudon McAdam. It’s also where the verb “macadamisation” comes from, which is a great word.

Would that be the same John Macadam that the macadamia nut is named for?

EDIT: Nope, different one. John McAdam was Scottish, while John Macadam was Australian.

Guess I’m pronouncing it fooks-ia from now on…

PageRank was named after Larry Page?

MySQL is named after the one of co-founder's daughter, My?

I knew the Debian. but this is mind boggling.


>The basis of Google's search technology is called PageRank™, and assigns an "importance" value to each page on the web and gives it a rank to determine how useful it is. However, that's not why it's called PageRank. It's actually named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20010715123343/https://www.googl...

This, like a lot of these, feels like a happy coincidence people probably realized at the time and couldn't say "no" to.

PageRank was originally designed to track Usenet posts that referenced one another. The "pages" in web nomenclature is a complete coincidence.

MySQL's fork, MariaBD, is also named after one os Widenius' daughters.

Mariabidet is a good one. This will stick in my head forever! Especially when flushing :)

So is MaxDB, which is also named after his son Max


I had always assumed it was called PageRank because it ranks (web)pages

"PageRank was named after Larry Page?"

Interesting to me, as I thought it was Brin's idea, and 3 people worked on the paper.

That is all true, but they might still have agreed to name it after Larry Page - I'm certain they all had a sense of humor

Start a new list for things unexpectedly NOT named after people. Silly example "Bilirubin"

:-) fun. Tnx for sharing.

Bluetooth: tenth-century king Harald Bluetooth united dissonant Danish tribes into a single kingdom. (re: uniting communication protocols)

I guess it's not so surprising bc why the heck is it named after a tooth (had been thinking... the shape of a Bluetooth dongle? Lol) but still, this is a pretty obscure ref.

Also the Bluetooth "logo" is actually just the signet of king Bluetooth.

Smart & Final, the chain of warehouse food and supply stores, is named after a "J.S. Smart" and an "H.D. Final".

The leotard is named after its inventor, French acrobat Jules Léotard: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leotard

Macadamia nuts are native to Australia and were named in honor of Dr John Macadam, "a Scottish-Australian chemist, medical teacher, Australian politician and cabinet minister, and honorary secretary of the Burke and Wills expedition."

Scientific names are frequently eponymous, but very few common foods were discovered by Europeans after Linnaeus invented modern taxonomy. New World food names are usually derived from native words (avocado, potato, etc).

From the same last name, “tarmac” is a shortening of tarmacadam, from tar + macadam; the latter named for John Loudon McAdam. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macadam

The Cueva de los Verdes, a famous cave on Lanzarote, was named after the Verdes family and contains nothing green. (Well worth seeing if you ever get a chance to go.)

Adidas was founded by Adi Dassler. His brother founded Puma and they hated each other.

Ashley Pond in Los Alamos, NM is a pond named after a man named Ashley Pond. It might be more correctly called Ashley Pond pond?

There is a long list of tautological place names, most often where multiple languates are ised in the name.

"Rio Grande River" means "Big River River" (rio being river and grande big).

"Kill" is Dutch for creek (e.g., Fishkill).

"Avon" is Celtic (Gaelic, Irish, Welch) for river (River Avon).

"Hatchie" is Choctaw for river (Loosahatchie River)

"Mississippi" is Anishinaabe for "big river".

Similarly Mekong, Cuyahoga, Wadi (or the Hispanified "guada"), Molopo, Ouse, Reka, Upė, Walla, "ci-" perfix (Java), Owen, and otheers in different refions.

Bothmia, Chad, Laguna, Lagunita, "-kal", Loch, bach, Michigan are all other terms for bodies of water (lakes, bays, etc.).

Gibralteer, knock (cnoc), Montana, Morro, Killimanjaro (killi), pen or pendell, pic ("peak), mesa.

Etc., etc., etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tautological_place_nam...

The best example of this is Torpenhow Hill in Cumbria, England. Torr, penn, and howe all mean “hill” in different languages.

There are several such triples:

- Eas Fors Waterfall

- Deschutes Falls, Tumwater, Washington

- Lochmere Lake, Cary, North Carolina

- Bredon Hill, Pendle Hill, (hill hill hill)

- Nesoddtangen (cape cape cape)

- Wookey Hole Caves (cave cave cave)

Lake Semerwater is a near-quad: lake lake lake water.

Then there are double doubles: The La Brea Tar Pits (the the tar tar pits).

And the baseball team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (the the angels angels of Ana's home)

in fiction, Castle DunBroch from Disney's Brave.

In electromagnetism, the Poynting vector, the directional flux of an electromagnetic wave, is named after John Henry Poynting.

In differential geometry there's the Killing field: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_vector_field

If you know a girl named Mercedes, she might be named after a car company which was named after someone's daughter.


Mercedes is a common Spanish first name meaning "mercies" and is the short version of one of the titles of the Virgin Mary. But then, a lot of Spanish names for girls are titles of the Virgin Mary.

Conversely, Porsche is named for Ferdinand Porsche and not the female name.

The female name is normally spelled "Portia", from the main character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Haven't you ever seen A Fish Called Wanda??

My favorite example: Dunce.

From Wikipedia: "Duns Scotus wrote treatises on theology, grammar, logic and metaphysics, which were widely influential throughout Western Europe... The followers of Duns Scotus were called the Dunses, Dunsmen, or Scotists. When in the sixteenth century the Scotists argued against Renaissance humanism, the term duns or dunce became, in the mouths of the Protestants, a term of abuse and a synonym for one incapable of scholarship."

This is similar to how people call others "Einstein" when they do something stupid.

One of the funniest cases I know of is actually a reverse case. A French/Russian caricaturist, Emmanuel Poiré, published his work under the name Caran d'Ache, which is a french transliteration of the word карандаш which means pencil in Russian. The Swiss company Caran d'Ache "borrowed" his name six years after he died in 1909, and became on of the most renowned companies in this business. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caran_d%27Ache https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caran_d%27Ache_(company)

Reminds me of an episode from Under the Influence (covers history through the lens of marketing). Specifically:

S7E11A - Brands Are People, Too - Products Named After Inventors

This week, we explore famous Products Named After Their Inventors. Some products are so cemented in our minds we forget their names once belonged to people. Shrapnel was invented by Henry Shrapnel, nachos were invented by Nachos Anaya and the leotard was invented by a Jules Leotard. We’ll even look at some inventors who wish their names had been forgotten...


13 year old me was confused by holter monitors, which are wearable heart monitors invented by Norman J. Holter. Everyone seems to pronounce it as halter, and mine was kind of like a halter. 20 years later my Dog got one I and I saw it spelled out on a receipt..

The “pap” in Pap smear is short for Papanikolaou

In Austin, Texas there is a high school football stadium called House Park (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Park). For many years I assumed that house meant something like venue. (In theater, there is house lighting. And restaurants serve house wine.)

But it's actually named after Edward M. House, a political figure who donated the land.

There's also a Slaughter Lane. This being Texas, one might guess it is a road to a slaughterhouse, but it's named after the Slaughter family who were early settlers in the region.

Noob Saibot, the Mortal Kombat character, is named after John Tobias and Ed Boon.

Currying after Haskell Brooks Curry

Still waiting for Brooks to be a term in functional programming.

Cakebread Cellars : named after Jack and Delores Cakebread.

Sabian, the cymbal manufacturer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabian), was named after Sally, Billy, and Andy Zildjian, the children of Robert Zildjian, when he had a conflict with his brother Armand Zildjian after he was not chosen to be the main CEO and successor of Avedis Zildjian.

My favorite is Legg–Calvé–Perthes disease. I had this as a child and it wasn't until filling out a medical form as an adult that I learned it was a name and not "leg calf perthes"


Bay Area surplus electronics aficionados may remember halted.com, which was founded by two guys named "Hal" and "Ted".

Now I’m sad.

MySQL gives an impression like My First Sony. How many people never bothered to look at it because it sounds like a toy?

America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer who was pretty sure America was a separate continent - pretty random !


Bolivia is named after Simon Bolivar, its first president.

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_named_after_...

Suitland and Beltsville, MD - suburbs of DC named after local landowners, Samuel T. Suit and Truman Belt.

And Beltsville is just off the Beltway.

Southern blot, but not western blot.

Main St in San Franciso is less surprising when you see it is a pretty insignificant street.

Sort of an obvious one, but MariaDB is named after Michael Widenius’s other child, Maria.

MaxDB too, named after is son Max

I think Max might count, but Maria would be weird if it wasn't named after someone...

MySQL too, after another daughter, My.

Edit: oh it's in the article too.

The most surprising one to me is MySQL, which is named after Widenius's daughter, My. My is a Vietnamese name and it's pronounced like English "me", so maybe we've been pronouncing MySQL wrong this whole time!

Tangentially, biological systematists (aka Taxonomists by some) take the cake: https://faculty.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html.

The Loyal Heights neighborhood in Seattle. According to Wikipedia, "established by businessman Harry Whitney Treat in 1906 as part of the independent city of Ballard. Named for his daughter Loyal Graef Treat ..."

The Loyal Heights neighborhood in Seattle, named after the developer's daughter, Loyal Graef Treat.

Many of these are just words subject to multiple interpretations, one of which happens to be a person's proper name, similar to the old linguistic teaser: "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana"

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