My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!
Boycott is an eponym, a word derived from the name of a person. In this case the unlucky individual was Captain Charles Boycott, who was an English landholder in Ireland in 1880. He owned many, many square miles of Ireland, but didn’t live anywhere near his holdings, and charged exorbitant rent to the Irish families that had been living on that land for thousands of years. In September of 1880, shortly before the harvest was due to be gathered, many of his tenants demanded that he lower their rents; but instead of doing so, he expelled them. In return, the Irish Land League, a union of farmers and other concerned citizens, organized a boycott of Boycott: no one was to do any business of any kind with him. He was completely ignored by his workers, his personal servants, local businessmen, and the post office. He could not buy anything from shops, and people would not even sit near him in church.