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Orwellian, Kafkaesque, Quixotic, and You as an Adjective

George Orwell

Despite his influence, there are no moving pictures or sound recordings of George Orwell

I have been studying George Orwell’s (born as Eric Blair) writing. Lots. Venturing outside the novels 1984 and Animal Farm that everyone seems to know, and focusing on his biography and the shorter non-fiction pieces he wrote. If you’re ever looking for a great snapshot of the man’s mind, the In Front of Your Nose compilations are fantastic.

The more I read, the more I realize that he deserves the still-constant mentions he receives in the press. As a professor put it in the Modern Scholar lecture on Orwell:

He was so far ahead of his time that we are only now just catching up.

Orwellian. Even if you don’t know exactly what it means, you recognize it as a chilling, dread-laden word most closely associated to the oppressive Big Brother of 1984.

But today, dread is not on my mind. Rather, the influence that a person or a literary character must have to get their own adjective.

Don Quixote got Quixotic–whimsical, tilting at windmills, etc.

Kafka got Kafkaesque–read The Metamorphosis and In The Penal Colony and decide if this is an honor or not.

Think about your own last name. Mine is Hanagarne. Try as I might, “Hanagarnian”  brings to mind unglamorous images. Maybe something related to livestock. A Hanagarnian bull. A rusted thresher. Maybe something twitchy or taller or who speaks in more than average words per minute

Your last name. Is it well-suited to an adjective. What is it? What might it be used to describe?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Patrick Tracy May 12, 2011, 12:25 pm

    I like Hanagarnian. It sounds impressive and macho. It has almost the same meter as Herculean, which must count for something.

    Tracyesque…yeah, no.

  • cinderkeys May 13, 2011, 1:07 am

    Wengerian. Slow to process.

  • Tony May 13, 2011, 3:08 am

    Should never miss a chance to quote from The Devil’s Dictionary:

    QUIXOTIC, adj.
    Absurdly chivalric, like Don Quixote. An insight into the beauty and excellence of this incomparable adjective is unhappily denied to him who has the misfortune to know that the gentleman’s name is pronounced Ke-ho-tay.

    So, who knows how future generations will mutilate Hanagarnian…?

  • Sarah May 13, 2011, 7:04 am

    Well my last name as it is can already be used as the plural for a few things: Rems – rapid eye movements and apparently a rem is some sort of carpet term (it’s rather unnerving to see you’re for sale for $69 on a billboard on I95). But for the adjective Remsian, that’s used to describe someone who works well with metal scraps. You would want a Remsian Blacksmith back in the day.