|This is a giraffe. Eating a bone. Well you try illustrating byword.|
(photo by Carrie Cizauskas)
[Old English biwyrde = Old High German biwurti, rendering Latin proverbium: see BY-, WORD noun.]
1 A proverb; a proverbial saying. OE
2(a) A person etc. taken as typical of a (usually bad) quality;
a quality in a person etc that is widely recognized. M16
2(b) A (usually scornful or mocking) nickname. Now rare. L16
3 obsolete. A casual word; a hint; an aside. M16-17
A obsolete. A word or phrase frequently used, especially by an individual. M16-E18
Byword is an exceptionally useful word when one feels like having a little rant about someone or something, as it follows a very simple formula of connecting 'A' (disliked thing) with 'B' (negative attribute), running as such:
[Target of ire] + is a byword for + [Negative quality or attribute]
From searching news articles, I've discovered that government is a byword for corruption, Mark Byford is a byword for BBC excess, Brixton is a byword for disorder, Birmingham is a byword for Islamist extremist terror and Tony Blair is a byword for excess. Of course, a lot of these show that byword is probably being overused (and misused) - after all, I don't think of Islamic extremism when I think of Birmingham - I think of the accent. And I don't think the average person first thinks of excess when Tony Blair is mentioned - they're more likely to think of the Iraq invasion or non-existent WMDs. There are true bywords out there though: to offer two Biblical examples, Solomon is a byword for wisdom, and Job is a byword for patience. And if I may add two of my own: Ryanair is a byword for cheap, uncomfortable travel and appalling customer service, and The Daily Mail is a byword for small-minded bigotry and scaremongering. There. I said it. There was no chance The Daily Mail was going to escape without a mention in this post ...
|... or Ryanair, of course|
(photo by Andy Mitchell)
Do you have any bywordial examples?
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