2011-04-07 Leave a comment
I have already remarked upon the accident of the piano and would fain (it’s not often one gets a chance to fain these days) pursue this matter with other incidents of nominal accidentism. One might hope to build up a catalogue of things which did not need to be named with the name they now have but which could have been named otherwise.
We shall exclude personated trade names like Hoover and Biro for two reasons. The first reason being that the name – whilst being technically accidental (if Mr Hoover hadn’t invented it somebody else would have sooner or later come up with the same thing) – is not actually accidental. The choice to name a thing after its inventor is such a well-established method of extricating oneself from agonizing hours spent trying to think of a name. On those grounds it can hardly be considered anything other than choice-avoiding (and thus anti-, if not actually non- accidental). And if you don’t consider that good enough as a first reason, consider the second reason – unless you have a real candidate to supply the alternate name (like Swan/Edison or Stephenson/Trevithik, etc) then there’s little to control the explosion of possible names which could have been used for any given invention and the lists would be just boring.