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Epagogici eponyms
  1. Gerald Stern
  1. University College Hospitals, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gerald Stern, 10 Cottesmore Court, Stanford Road, London W85QL, UK; geraldsterniii{at}

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Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside

An essay on criticism. Alexander Pope (1688–1744).

At times, the use of eponyms has been controversial. Much has been written about their limitations, but it cannot be denied that many have usefully withstood the test of time. In Western culture, pedants may have differed over the first eponym. Assyrians in the second millennium named each year after a high official; since the 8th century BC, Homer's Odyssey has been called after Odysseus; in ancient Greece, the name of the highest magistrate was given to the year of his office and at least five of the months in the revised Roman Justinian–Gregorian calendar are named after gods or emperors.

Koehler, Bryn and Pearce, editors of a scholarly and fascinating book on ‘Neurological Eponyms’,1 commented, “Medical eponyms are again in vogue after a period of 50–60 years when would-be-scientific doctors disdainfully rejected eponyms as obsolete … liberated from its inferiority complex … it now transpired that physic, chemistry astronomy … and the like, command a plethora of many hundreds of eponyms. Many terms chosen in place of eponyms are unwieldy and awkward”. The reasons for this renaissance may be complex but essentially indicate a practical need for succinct, useful terms, which are acceptable to patients and their families as well as to doctors and …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Christopher Gardner-Thorpe, Exeter, UK.

  • i Kindly reader forgive a little pedantry: Epagogue (Greek), the bringing forward of particular instances to lead to a general conclusion.

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