Things You Didn’t Know Were Named After People
In 1943 a group of military wives visiting Piedras Negras, a small Mexican city just across the border from Fort Duncan, in Eagle Pass, Texas, dropped by a local restaurant looking for a bite to eat. The restaurant was closed, but maître d’ (or possibly chef) Ignacio Anaya García felt sorry for the group and decided to whip up a little something based on what was still available in the kitchen. He cut up and fried some tortillas, covered them with shredded cheese and jalapeño peppers, and put it all in the oven for a few minutes. He named the tasty snack after his nickname—and so the nacho was born.
Earl Tupper held numerous jobs before taking a position with Viscoloid, a subsidiary of DuPont, in 1937. He left a year later to start his own business as a DuPont subcontractor, and eventually he developed a flexible, unbreakable plastic called polyethylene, which he used to manufacture lightweight containers with airtight lids similar to those found on paint cans.
Samuel A. Maverick was a 19th-century Texas lawyer who acquired a ranch with several hundred head of cattle. Uninterested in being a rancher, Maverick left his cattle unbranded and pretty much let them roam free. Over time maverick became a word for unbranded cattle. Today it more commonly means a person who acts individually rather than with a group.
Franz Mesmer was an 18th-century German physician who believed that the gravitational attraction of the planets influences human health. He later revised his theory and called it “animal magnetism,” suggesting that invisible fluid in the body reacts to the laws of magnetism. He developed a number of treatments to improve health by instilling a more harmonious fluid flow, some of which involved putting his patients into a trance. Physicians and other experts of the day labeled Mesmer a fraud, but from his name came the word mesmerize, meaning to captivate or hypnotize.
Feared by war fighters throughout modern history, shrapnel is the collective projectiles, typically small shot but also fragments of shell casing, that are scattered by an explosive charge. It is named after British artillery officer Henry Shrapnel, who invented the devastating antipersonnel weapon in the late 18th century.