Trilby, a novel written by George Louis du Maurier in 1894, was exceedingly popular for many years. The heroine, Trilby O’Ferrall, was so enthusiastically accepted that she became a marketing phenomenon. People bought Trilby soaps, Trilby perfumes, Trilby shoes, and a host of other Trilby articles of dress. The Trilby hat, soft felt with an indented crown, became the accepted headgear among the fashionable. After Trilby had a run in the theater, Trilby articles became worldwide favorites.
Svengali was a Hungarian musical genius who mesmerized Trilby and gained control over her. Through hypnosis, the villainous Svengali controlled Trilby’s singing voice and transformed her into a great singer. When Svengali died, Trilby lost her voice, fell ill, and died, too.
A person exercising unusual or mysterious control over someone else is said to be a svengali.
Du Maurier (1834-1896), once a caricaturist for Punch and an illustrator for the works of some prominent authors, never became as well- known as his granddaughter, Daphne du Maurier, a writer of romantic novels.


The stradivarius, a remarkable violin, is believed by many musicians to be the best ever made. They say the tone and craftsmanship of a stradivarius have never been equaled.
Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was born in Cremona, Italy. He was apprenticed to Niccolo Amati, who was regarded as the best maker of violins at that time. When Amati died in 1684, Stradivari began experimenting with the size and shape of violins and eventually came up with one that produced more breadth of resonance and power of tone. His violins, shorter than others, with a broadening and arching of the instrument, were of unsurpassed symmetry and beauty.
Stradivari attained worldwide recognition and received commissions from several heads of state, including James II of England and Charles III of Spain. He produced more than 1,000 violins and violoncellos, and some 600 are believed to be still extant. Those violins that were
given names — Alard, Betts, Viotti, and Messiah — are particularly famous.
Stradivari died without disclosing the secrets of his craft, so no one knows why a Stradivarius sounds better than other violins. Was it the varnish he used, the way he cut the F-holes, the aging of the wood? The term strad is a shortened form of the word and denotes the tops in a field.


John Batterson Stetson (1830-1906) was a New Jerseyite who went West for his health. His observant eye noticed that the headgear worn by cowboys was not so suitable as it might be. Returning to the East, he settled in Philadelphia, where he opened a hat-making factory. His hats became exceedingly popular, and soon he was the largest manufacturer of hats in the world. Although he made hats to suit all styles of dress, what made his name famous was his Western-style hats, which were more practical for wear and use on the range than the other hats made in the East. They were felt, wide-brimmed, and high-crowned. Before long they acquired the nickname «ten-gallon hat». No cowpuncher would any more bust a bronco without wearing his ten-gallon hat than he would dare walk the streets of Dodge City without his six-shooter.
Stetson University, a college in De Land, Florida, was named after John B. Stetson because of his generosity.


A Grecian herald of the Trojan War, Stentor faced the enemy to dictate terms. In Homer’s Iliad, Book V, appears a reference to Stentor that is widely quoted: «And when they were now come where the most valiant stood, thronging about mighty Diomedes tamer of horses, in the semblance of ravening lions or wild boars whose strength is nowise feeble, then stood the white-armed goddess Hera and shouted in the likeness of great-hearted Stentor with voice of bronze, whose cry was loud as the cry of fifty other men».
The eponymous stentorian, which means loud or strong in sound, derives directly from Stentor. Stentors, a variety of aquatic microscopic animal, have mouths shaped like trumpets.


Although Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689), a prominent English physician, conducted studies of a nervous disease causing spasmodic movements of the face or limbs, the better-known name of «Sydenham’s chorea» is St. Vitus’s dance. St. Vitus’s dance, a neurological disease earlier attributed to rheumatic fever, has, so to speak, waltzed itself into a permanent niche in the English language.
Saint Vitus, born in the third century, was the son of a Sicilian nobleman. Together with his nurse, Crescentia, and his tutor, Modestus, he suffered martyrdom as a child during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. Although St. Vitus was not known to suffer from chorea, his name was given to the nervous disease St. Vitus’s Dance because Vitus was thought to have power over epilepsy.
For some unscientific reason, a belief arose in the seventeenth century that dancing around a statue of St. Vitus would ensure good health and protect against disease. In Germany, where the custom was particularly prevalent, the dancing sometimes reached a stage of frenzy, but there are no attested reports of beneficial results. St. Vitus’s name was invoked as a protection from nervous disorders and from illness caused by bites of dogs and serpents.
Although chorea, a Greek word meaning «dance», is not a word easily recognized by everyone, its sister words are well known: choreography, the art of composing dance arrangements for the stage, and the more evocative chorine, a chorus girl.


For centuries people have tried to traverse the Alps through passes that were more than 8,000 feet high and always covered with snow. Many didn’t succeed and simply froze to death, their corpses covered with new snow, never to be discovered.
In the year 982, high in the Alps, a French nobleman who had renounced his wealth to become a monk built two shelters for pilgrims on their way to Rome and for any other adventurous travelers who faced the rigors of uncertain weather conditions while crossing over what came to be called the Great St. Bernard Pass and the Little St. Bernard Pass. This man, who was canonized in 1691, is known throughout the world as St. Bernard de Menthon (923-1008).
The dog known as St. Bernard was bred by monks long after the death of St. Bernard, and the dogs are still trained at the Alpine hospice. The heaviest of breeds, they measure up to six feet in length. Their ancestor has not been established, but some believe that the Molossus hound, imported from Asia, might have been crossed with a Newfoundland breed.
This breed has generated many heart-warming stories, foremost of which may be one of Barry, whose statue adorns the St. Bernard Hospice. Barry has been credited with saving at least forty lives during a ten-year period. One story concerns Barry’s finding a small child unconscious in the snow. Barry warmed the chile with its breath and licked his hands and face, rousing him from what might have been a deadly sleep. By various movements, Barry got the child to climb on its back, then carried the child safely to the hospice.


The Reverend William A. Spooner (1844-1930), an Anglican clergyman, had a habit of transposing the initial sounds of words, forming a ludicrous combination. Whether his slips of tongue were accidental or simply the result of absentmindedness has never been determined. His position in life as dean and later warden of New College, Oxford, would seem to have called for simple and direct dialogue with no tongue twisters.
Spooner’s students so enjoyed hearing his transposition of the initial sounds of words that they made up some combinations themselves for their own amusement — for example, «Is the bean dizzy?» for «Is the dean busy?» — but they could never surpass those attributed to their master. When he preached, he carried with him his lapses of speech. On one occasion he said to a person who had come to pray, «Aren’t you occupewing the wrong pie?» for «occupying the wrong pew». When the startled parishioner looked at him ungraspingly, he continued with, «Were you sewn into this sheet?» for «shown into this seat». Possibly the funniest mistake of his twisted tongue was at the end of a wedding ceremony when the bashful groom simply stood there. Spooner intoned, «It’s kisstomary to cuss the bride».
The technical name for this form of twisting words is metathesis, but better known is the nontechnical name spoonerism.
Some of Spooner’s phrases that are used as examples are «a well- boiled icicle» for «a well-oiled bicycle»; «our shoving leopard» for «our loving shepherd»; «a half-warmed fish» for «a half-formed wish». One of his most repeated transpositions is «Kinquering congs their titles take» for «Conquering kings their titles take». And he is supposed to have made a toast to the dear old queen by saying, «Let us now drink to the queer old dean».
Spooner closed his academic life in an appropriate style. When, because of age, he was forced into retirement, he remarked, «It came as a blushing crow», instead of a «crushing blow».


The typewriter, the word processor, and the computer have almost made the need for good penmanship obsolete. But written notes are sometimes very effective in business, and socially they are a decided asset. Spencerian handwriting is the name given to a style of ornate penmanship introduced by Platt Rogers Spencer (1800-1864), an American calligrapher. Written with a fine pen, with the down-strokes tapering from top to bottom and large loops, the writing has a forward slope and marked terminal flourishes. Spencer taught this style for many years, and it had a marked influence on American calligraphy.
Born in East Fishkill, New York, Spencer migrated to Geneva, Ohio, where he conducted unique penmanship classes in a log cabin on his farm. He then branched out with lectures and classes at business schools and academies and wrote a series of textbooks used by many schools during the pre-Civil War period. His handwriting had such a stamp of excellence that Spencerian became the hallmark of good handwriting. His textbooks, naturally, helped popularize his style.
Spencerian script, descriptive of his penmanship, although considered dated and old-fashioned, has become a collectors’ items.


How the Spencer jacket came about is a matter of dispute. The jacket was named for George John Spencer, the second Earl of Spencer (1758-1834). One belief is that the earl was thrown from his horse and tore his long-tailed riding coat on a thorn bush. Spencer conceived the idea of a short coat that would not be damaged in such circumstances. At that time, only a coat with tails was considered proper dress.
Another belief is that the earl wagered that he could set a new fashion by wearing a short overcoat without skirts, which he wore as he strolled the streets of London. Spencer won the bet. The jacket gained immediate popularity; it became quite stylish, de rigueur among the social elite.
The name came to be applied also to a close-fitting bodice for women, but there the word’s lineage is clearer: It was designed by a Mr. Knight Spencer.


The Spartans of Ancient Greece were drilled in fortitude. They were austere and tough and lived under a code of laws that stressed hardiness and devotion to the state. Sparta was a city-state that excelled in and was governed by military perfection. Weak or disabled infants were left to die of exposure; the arts, considered enfeebling, were banished; military training began at age seven. Schoolchildren have marveled at a story
of a Spartan boy who, having stolen a fox and hidden it under his cloak, stood stock still while the fox gnawed out his innards.
Sparta lay in an open plain with no natural barriers to protect it, no hills for an enemy to have to climb, no rivers to be crossed, and no dense woodland to act as a natural shield for the city. As a result the Spartans were devoted to building and maintaining an army.
An ambassador from another state once asked Lycurgus why Sparta had no walls around it. «But we do have walls», replied the Spartan monarch, «and I will show them to you». He led his guest to the field where the army was marshaled in battle array. Pointing to the ranks of men, he said: «There are the walls of Sparta, and every man is a brick».
We use such terms as Spartan courage, the enduring of great discomfort or pain stoically, Spartan simplicity, living by only the necessities of life, and Spartan fare, a frugal diet, a subsistence on the barest essentials to survive.