Some people have made such a contribution in one way or the other that their names pass into the language. The Washington Post has an interesting feature that takes up some of these names and argues that the actual person was different from the adjective that their names became. (At the link, you can link further to complete articles about each of these individuals.)
Mao was not a Maoist By Jung Chang
Chairman Mao extolled the “hard life” for hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens. Yet, biographer Jung Chang explains, Mao enjoyed the choicest food, lived among 50 estates and earned millions in royalties from the books he forced the nation to read.
Clinton was not Clintonian By Jon Cowan and Matt Bennett
Is President Clinton Clintonian? It depends on what the meaning of “Clintonian” is. But Third Way’s Matt Bennett and Jonathan Cowan argue that the benign definition — having a willingness to take on party orthodoxies — is the one that will endure.
Rand was not Randian By Jennifer Burns
Rand wanted to live up to her novels’ heroes — men like Howard Roark and John Galt, who lived for their work and cared little for the opinions of others. So why, asks historian Jennifer Burns, was Rand heartbroken when reviewers didn’t like “Atlas Shrugged”?
Keynes was not Keynesian By Nicholas Wapshott
The term “Keynesian” has become a Washington insult — “shorthand for spendthrift, wasteful, debt-ridden, incontinent, elitist, socialist,” writes journalist Nicholas Wapshott. But the elegant British economist was none of the above.
Machiavelli was not Machiavellian By Miles Unger
“It is better to be feared than loved.” The author of “The Prince” offered cynical chestnuts such as this to 16th-century politicians. But biographer Miles Unger writes that Machiavelli was far from devious: He took in orphans, went to jail for his beliefs and died broke.
Queen Victoria was not Victorian By Kate Williams
The supposedly dour monarch who ruled England during the repressed Victorian era not only had nine children with her dashing young husband, but even flirted with the help after his death. Biographer Kate Williams offers a glimpse at the woman behind the frown.
Freud was not Freudian By Howard Markel
Freud demanded that his patients tell the truth about their most intimate experiences. But author Howard Markel says the inventor of psychoanalysis was never honest about his deepest, darkest secret: his addiction to cocaine.
Jefferson was not Jeffersonian By R.B. Bernstein
It’s hardly news that the founding father who wrote that “all men are created equal” owned slaves. But according to biographer R.B. Bernstein, this small-government enthusiast was not above big-government moves. Exhibit A: the Louisiana Purchase.
One could take issue with some of this. (Believing in sexual propriety as Queen Victoria did does NOT mean being against sex in marriage!) And I suspect that every person is far more complex than some single quality that might be attributed to them. But still, this is a game that we might play.
I am currently engaged in an e-mail controversy over whether Marx was a Marxist. Was Calvin a Calvinist? Was Luther a Lutheran?
What other names could we scrutinize?