Jennie Erin Smith‘s TLS review (freely accessible) of Frederik Sjöberg’s The Fly Trap, besides being fun to read (see excerpt below), taught me two new words. The review begins: “Malaise traps are tent-like contraptions that intercept flying insects with mesh and, taking advantage of their urge to fly up towards the light when faced with an obstacle, shuttle them upwards into a poison-filled chamber.” I thought malaise was a pretty euphemistic description of what the insects experienced as a result of the trap, but as I read on I saw that the word was consistently spelled with a capital M and realized it was a proper name — the name, in fact, of the book’s subject, René Malaise. (There’s a good illustration of the trap at the Wikipedia page.) And several sentences later Smith writes: “Sjöberg collected his hoverflies with a net and a pooter, a flexible tube used to suck up insects by mouth into a container.” Pooter! What a word! (Later on, she writes: “He has suffered ‘every conceivable insinuation and witticism’ with regard to his pooter, the portable insect-sucking tube, but even he will concede its resemblance to an opium pipe.”) The OED says:
Etymology: Apparently < the name of F. W. Poos (1891–1987), U.S. entomologist who first used the device + –er suffix, with insertion of –t-, apparently for euphony.
1939 Amateur Entomologist Sept. 33 A coleopterist’s sucking tube (a pooter) is useful when collecting large numbers.
So both words seem to be eponyms. As for Malaise, he had quite a life:
Malaise was born in 1892 in Stockholm, the son of a French chef, and, like naturalists everywhere, began collecting as a child – plants, then butterflies, then, as he got more serious, sawflies. After the end of the First World War, Malaise left his famous journalist girlfriend, Ester Blenda Nordström, and joined his zoologist friend Sten Bergman and three others on a lavishly funded collecting expedition to the Kamchatka Peninsula, the lobe of terrain in easternmost Russia that dangles over Japan. The Kamchatka expedition lasted three years, officially, and Bergman secured his fame with a dramatic account of it. Malaise, though, chose to stay in Kamchatka, inured to homesickness and civil war, surviving in the backwoods on a primitive bread boiled in bear fat while continuing to collect his flies. In 1923, he experienced a series of extraordinary earthquakes. The first came in the winter, while he was sleeping in a yurt in the woods. The trees bowed, there was a terrible roaring noise, and a tsunami drove a giant wall of ice inland, razing the coastal fringe of forest. The aftershocks continued for weeks. In August of that year, Malaise was making a supply run to Tokyo when the ground dropped out beneath him, collapsing the roof and floor of his hotel at once, and triggering deadly fires. It was the Great Kanto Earthquake, one of the worst in Japan’s history. Malaise sailed from Tokyo as the city burned. […]
In Sweden, where he took refuge after the quakes, Malaise was reunited with Nordström, who was brilliant, charming and probably lesbian; she followed him back to Kamchatka, married him, and wrote a book about the place which never once mentioned her husband. Malaise returned to Stockholm again after the marriage dissolved, and developed a prototype of his trap, which he demonstrated there and in London. Oddly, few were impressed. Malaise himself was undeterred. He married again, this time an adventurous schoolteacher happy to accompany him on a dangerous expedition to Burma. In Rangoon with his new wife, he had his first traps sewn by tailors. The traps proved frighteningly effective: the Malaises returned with more than 100,000 insects, which museums were still sorting at the time of Sjöberg’s writing.
He went on to become an Atlantis crank, unfortunately, but he “never grew bitter and never lost his optimism, even in the face of ridicule.”