Odd Words: Autonym

AutonymWe have landed on page 18 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. It was a difficult page, because it contained only one non-jargon word I didn’t know. But it is a good one: autonym.

The reason page 18 was so bad was that it was not a full page. This is because it was the last page in the A section. And it makes me wonder. Am I really going to continue to do this for well over a year longer. The last page of Z is 410. So I’m looking at about 13 months. The very idea of it frightens me.

Doing these Odd Words posts is hard. It isn’t that the work itself is hard, though. I liken it to imaginary numbers in math. When I first learned of imaginary numbers, I disliked them. And all through my studies, I was filled with dread whenever I had to deal with them. They were never a problem. But they felt like they were a problem. These posts are like that. I think it’s just knowing I have to deal with upside down e characters and umlauts and various other things that just aren’t on my keyboard.

But enough of my whining.

Finding My Autonym

One of my great failings as a human being is being overly honest. For many things I have written in the past, I should have used a pseudonym. But I didn’t because of my open nature and my extreme naivete when it comes to the way people react to things outside their comfort zone. On the plus side, I don’t have to worry about people discovering my autonym. Not that I don’t play around with my first name because, let’s face it, most people are far too self-involved to spend more than a couple of seconds researching me. (And they are right to be so disinterested!)

But I do think this is an excellent word: autonym.

Au·to·nym  noun  \ô’-tə-nim;\

1. one’s real name; an author’s own name.

2. (cultural anthropology) the name that a people give to themselves.

Date: mid 19th century.

Origin: construction of the English prefix “auto” (meaning “oneself”) and the suffix “onym” (meaning “name”).

Example: In the late 1980s, Blacks began to abandon the term Afro-American, adopting the autonym African American instead.Deborah Dickerson

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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