Historical Word Trivia

Orlan Smith shares with us the origins and original meanings of words that may have fallen into disuse or have been redefined over time.



Mouthwash sold under the trademark Listerine is one of America’s best-known medical products. But if a famous British surgeon had his way, it wouldn’t be on the market.

Impressed by the findings of Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister elevated antiseptic surgery to new levels. Contemporaries revered him so greatly that he became the central figure of a solemn ceremony. As a token of gratitude for his contributions to mankind, the son of a wine merchant was given a resounding title: First Baron Lister of Lyme Regis.

Ingenious Yankees adapted his name to label bottles filled with a mild antiseptic liquid. Listerine sold like hotcakes, so Lord Lister tried his best to make manufacturers change its name. Because he failed in his effort, millions who know little or nothing about him continue to rely on the only product that keeps his memory green.

Respectfully Submitted by
Orlan Smith