HZ: There are many examples of political eponyms, where a politician’s name has entered the lexicon.
PAUL ANTHONY JONES: Probably the most famous one is ‘silhouette’, which is Etienne de Silhouette, this you get in my fantastic French accent was it was a French finance minister who introduced really new terrible austerity measures out of the Seven Years War in France, mid 1700s. And so because these things were so austere, his name became attached to anything that was done inexpensively or cheaply. And because silhouette portraits are just colorless outlines rather than full color portraits, they became known as silhouettes, just because they were so popular at the same time that he was implementing these measures his name very negatively ended up being attached to them. Read More
HZ: It's interesting because you'd never think to look at a silhouette that it was something negative. But something like a guillotine, that's a bit more obviously a diss.
PAUL ANTHONY JONES: Yes. Yeah. That was Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. He has this reputation, I think just because of his attachment to the word, of being a kind of Robespierre sort of character, really bloodthirsty, heads will roll type of character. And he was nothing of the sort: he was a physician; he opposed the death penalty; he was a member of the French National Assembly; an early proponent of vaccination. He's got all of these positives going for him; but because, as a member of the National Assembly he said that if capital punishment was going to be used, then it should be done in the most humane way possible, and that meant the quickest way possible. So he saw this idea for a mechanism of a falling angled blade, and decided that that would be the best way to do it, put the idea in front of the National Assembly, and it ended up having his name. The other thing is that at the time, the guillotine was also known as the 'louisette', because it was invented by someone called Antoine Louis; so at the time it was it was known by its maker's name, but it's Guillotin's name that's ended up being attached to it, and it's completely changed his reputation in history; I think a lot of people expect it to be a completely different character to who he was just because of his advocacy for this thing.
HZ: So it's unfortunate that for someone who was relatively kind and progressive, his relatively kind in progressive form of ending someone's life has tainted his overall remembrance.
PAUL ANTHONY JONES: Yeah, yeah; it's completely changed his reputation.