Sideburns
   Technically, this essay does not belong in the book because the subject does not consist of a proper noun used as an ordinary word. The proper noun is Burnside; the ordinary word, sideburns. Clearly sideburns is not a derivative. Let's clarify the mixup.
   Ambrose Everett Burnside (1824-1881) went from being an apprentice tailor in Liberty, Indiana, to a Union general and ultimately commander of the Army of the Potomac. He was a dreamer of bizarre schemes to win the Civil War.
   No one would disagree that Burnside looked the part of a general, what with his striking figure, his bushy side whiskers, and smooth chin. His greatest pleasure was to lead a parade and maneuver his Rhode Island volunteers, for he was always warmly applauded. Astride a horse, and with whiskers flowing and the bands playing, he was the dashing general that people expected to see. This was the spectacle of Burnside at his best.
   Militarily, Burnside was a different kind of spectacle. At the battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside instigated a surprise strike by crossing the river. More than 100,000 Union soldiers were killed. This debacle was followed by others, including a plan to tunnel under the enemy lines. Kindhearted historians report simply that Burnside had his ups and downs. Abraham Lincoln said that he was the only man he knew who could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Burnside was bumble-headed and undoubtedly the least distinguished general in the Union Army. He committed so many military errors that the war would have been lost had he not been replaced before resigning his commission.
   But Burnside lived on, not because of his surname but because he had cultivated side whiskers, a luxuriant growth of muttonchop whiskers called burnsides. Men, particularly young men, liked the look. Burmides became a popular fad. However, because of a semantic shift the name for side whiskers was sensibly turned around to sideburns, a logical generic term because such whiskers grow on the sides of the face. The continuation of hair down the side of a man's face is still called sideburns, making Burnside's name, anagrammatically speaking, one of the best eponymous words.
   Being bumble-headed doesn't prevent a person from rising to high office. Burnside, with his winning personality and imposing presence, was elected governor of Rhode Island three times and then served as a United States senator for two terms. The people of Rhode Is]and were more compassionate than Burnside's first wife-to-be. When the minister asked whether she would take this man as her husband, she took a quick look at him, shrieked a resounding "No," and ran out of the church.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • sideburns — 1887, alteration of BURNSIDES (Cf. burnsides) (q.v) …   Etymology dictionary

  • sideburns — UK [ˈsaɪdˌbɜː(r)nz] / US [ˈsaɪdˌbɜrnz] or sideboards UK [ˈsaɪdˌbɔː(r)dz] / US [ˈsaɪdˌbɔrdz] noun [plural] British hair that grows down a man s cheeks …   English dictionary

  • sideburns — ☆ sideburns [sīdbʉrnz΄ ] pl.n. [reversed < BURNSIDES] 1. BURNSIDES 2. the hair on a man s face, just in front of the ears, esp. when the rest of the beard is cut off …   English World dictionary

  • Sideburns — Ambrose Burnside, the term s namesake Mutton chop redirects here. For the cut of meat, see Mutton chop (meat). Sideburn redirects here. For the Transformers character, see Side Burn. Sideburns or sideboards[1] are pa …   Wikipedia

  • sideburns — [[t]sa͟ɪdbɜː(r)nz[/t]] N PLURAL If a man has sideburns, he has a strip of hair growing down the side of each cheek. ...a young man with long sideburns …   English dictionary

  • sideburns — n.pl. = SIDEBOARDS. Etymology: burnsides pl. of burnside f. General Burnside d. 1881 who affected this style * * * nz noun plural Etymology: anagram of burnsides 1. : side whiskers; especially : short side whiskers worn with a smooth chin …   Useful english dictionary

  • sideburns — noun plural Etymology: anagram of burnsides Date: 1887 1. side whiskers 2. continuations of the hairline in front of the ears • sideburned adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • sideburns — /suyd berrnz /, n.pl. 1. short whiskers extending from the hairline to below the ears and worn with an unbearded chin. 2. the projections of the hairline forming a border on the face in front of each ear. [1885 90, Amer.; alter. of BURNSIDES] * * …   Universalium

  • sideburns — noun /ˈsaɪd.bɚnz/ Facial hair reaching from the top of the head down the side of the face to the side of the chin …   Wiktionary

  • sideburns — I (Roget s IV) n. Syn. burnsides, side whiskers, face hair, facial hair. II (Roget s 3 Superthesaurus) n. burnsides, *mutton chops, whiskers. see beard …   English dictionary for students

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”