Letters for the Week of September 11 

Readers sound off on gentrification in Oakland, police corruption, and our use of the word eponymous.

Page 5 of 6

Julius Caesar — the month of July, Caesar cipher, the titles Czar, Tsar, and Kaiser.

Augustus Caesar — the month of August; the city of Zaragoza (originally Caesaraugustus); the city of Caesarea in Israel; numerous other cities once named Caesarea; the Caesarean section, because he was supposedly born in this manner.

Rudolf Diesel — the diesel engine

Gabriel Fahrenheit  — the Fahrenheit scale

John Maynard Keynes — Keynesian economics

Ernesto Miranda — Miranda Warning

Charles Ponzi — Ponzi scheme, a kind of fraud

You get the picture. To be included here as an eponym, a word must meet a rather high standard.

Now, strictly speaking, most of the usages that appear in these pages do not violate the rather loose limits imposed by the definition — most, but by no means all, as the examples below, some of which stretch the limits to ridiculous lengths, amply illustrate.

None of these uses would suffer even slightly from the simple omission of the adjective, and would exemplify far better thinking and writing if replaced by a more suitable, less mindless, adjective. Do your writers think we're so daft that we can't figure out that the name of the restaurant/dish/movie/item has the same name as the person/place/thing mentioned right next to it in the same sentence?

If I haven't yet made my case, then consider the sources of my irritation, among which are the following examples, culled from the first few pages of the results of a search of the Express web site for the term "eponymous."

East Bay Express in general:

"We're naming Jackson's Canvas in Montclair as the East Bay's best new restaurant. The eponymous brainchild of Peter Jackson"

"Chris Blue is working his magic right here in Berkeley at the eponymous Chocolatier Blue."

"Al's Barber Shop ... The eponymous Al has owned the shop since the 1950s"

"Avenger ... Marvel reboot featuring Chris Evans as the eponymous superhero"

"The eponymous debut, full of neurotic vocal delivery and rock appropriation"

"Hewing closely to the first half of Ellroy's novel, The Black Dahlia is less the tale of the eponymous victim or even the investigation into her death"

"Zodiac ... David Fincher's film version of the Robert Graysmith book about the eponymous San Francisco serial killer"

"Live-action adaptation of Snow White, starring Lily Collins as the eponymous princess"

"Blue Sky ... a pleasant little coffeeshop ... the walls are painted an adorable/eponymous cloudy design"

"Phil's Sliders ... The thirty-seat restaurant's menu will, of course, focus around the eponymous sliders"

"Food Shift, an organization she'd recently launched that's devoted to reducing hunger...The eponymous exhibit, Food Shift, opens with an event on Friday"

Film reviewer Kelly Vance:

"Beowulf (PG-13). English lit majors might never recognize Robert Zemeckis' manic, depressing, video-game-style version of the legend of the eponymous Danish warrior hero"

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (PG) ... finds adolescent Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) back at Hogwarts, using the mysterious, eponymous prince's potion book to help his friends get dates"

"The Virgin Suicides: A family tragedy widens out to affect young men who care for the eponymous afflicted young women."

"'Jackson weaves the marvelous tale of the eponymous, diminutive Bilbo Baggins"

"Blancanieves ... The eponymous unwanted stepdaughter"

"The upcoming Big Sur riffs on Kerouac's novel about fun-seeking poets camping out in the eponymous wilderness."

"She-Devils on Wheels (1968) was an attempt to cash in on that era's biker-pic craze, with the gimmick that the eponymous motorcycle gang"

"What makes a beauty shop so great is that it really is a microcosm of society," intones an earnest voiceover at the beginning of The Salon. Indeed. The denizens of this eponymous inner-city beauty shop"

"Behind the Mask, a meta-horror flick of Craven self-satisfaction. The film's eponymous loon, as played by Nathan Baesel"

"The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (7 p.m.), a documentary about the eponymous cephalopod"

Restaurant/Food Reviewer Luke Tsai:

"But there is more than meets the eye at Anula's. Anula Edirisinche, the eponymous chef-owner"

"the eponymous beef in the Warm Spiced Cinnamon Beef Salad"

"Romney Steele, whose oyster-centric restaurant, The Cook and Her Farmer, is slated to open in Old Oakland's Swan Marketplace later this year. For the pop-up, Steele (who is, of course, the eponymous cook)"

"Stag's Lunchette ... wood paneling, antlers on the wall, a mason jar filled with arrows, and sepia-toned sketches of forest scenes featuring—of course—lots of those eponymous stags."

"interview with the very French-looking Grégoire Jacquet, owner and founder of the eponymous gourmet takeout joint, Grégoire Restaurant"

Donald Swearingen, Oakland

Support the Steinberg Prison Overcrowding Proposal

California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has developed a rational proposal that will end the stalemate between the federal government and the State of California over meeting the federal mandate to reduce our overcrowded prisons. The Federal Court has determined that overcrowding is leading to inadequate care of inmates, and thus violating their basic rights.

The Governor has put forward a proposal to shift even more state inmates to leased space in county jails and private facilities and delay the closing of Norco Prison in Riverside County in response to the federal government’s demands to reduce our prison population to 137.5% of capacity. The Governor’s proposal clearly does not address the root cause of the issue. California’s overcrowded prison population is primarily a result of high recidivism rates (more than 65% of inmates return to prison over a three year period according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation), inappropriate mandatory sentencing on low level offenses, and the practice of sending large numbers of people to prison in certain counties. Since the Governor’s proposal does not address the high rate that people enter the prison system, implementation of his proposed initiative will eventually lead us to another prison overcrowding situation in the near future, thus returning us to the same situation we face today.


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