A recent CBC-Radio broadcast of Terry O’Reilly’s advertising show focused on products, such as the Granny Smith apple, that carried the names of their inventors/popularizers. It started me thinking about how odd it is to be immortalized without really being remembered as an individual. Your name lives on, but it becomes just another word in a crowded lexicon, rather than conjuring an image of you as a person with talents and foibles.
Think of baseball player Thomas Edward John II, for instance. His name is synonymous with Tommy John surgery, the surgical reconstruction technique that replaces the damaged ulnar ligament in the arm with one from elsewhere in the body. Numerous professional baseball players, as well as amateurs, are pitching today thanks to this revolutionary technique first attempted on John in 1974 and the term is embedded in baseball lingo.
But John, himself? Only fans of baseball history remember that he was a pitcher in the Major Leagues from 1963 to 1989, playing for six teams during his 26-year career. In fact, he was a four-time Major League all-star and played in three World Series. Quite a surprise to me!
Then, there are buildings and other civic structures who bear the names of those whose accomplishments are often forgotten. Take the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, the world’s longest span bridge when it opened in 1964. As the bridge that connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, it’s a name that recurs in traffic reports, but, undoubtedly, very few people today connect it back to Giovanni da Verrazano, the first European explorer to sail into New York Harbour, way back in 1524.
Interesting, eh? There is evidence of history all around us if we take a moment to think about and delve a bit deeper. In this age of smartphones, it’s easier than ever to learn more, so take advantage of the opportunity whenever an unfamiliar name crops up.