Nellie toured the world in her prime. She sang at the Met in New York, at Covent Garden in London, at the opera house in Paris, and at La Scala in Milan; she even sang for the tsars in Russia. Covent Garden became one of her regular stops every musical season.
Nellie actually had a small repertoire for a diva—she only sang about 25 operatic roles—but one of them was Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin. In fact, that might have been the only Wagner she sang. The chef at the Savoy Hotel where she stayed while in London, Auguste Escoffier, was so enthralled with her rendition of Elsa, he named a dessert after hearing her, Peach Melba—peaches and raspberry sauce over vanilla ice cream.
And here is where things get sketchy. The last date I can find that Nellie sang Elsa in London in the early 1890s was July 27, 1891. Supposedly, the very next day Escoffier created the dessert. However, he says he did not meet her until 1893. What is the solution? Maybe he heard her that evening in 1891 and it took two more years for him to come up with the dessert. Maybe it was a different role two years later that finally brought the dish into being. Maybe he, or she, misremembered. We do know this—he did name the dessert for her, and that is not the only thing this renowned chef named for Nellie. There is also melba sauce, a puree of raspberries and red currants. Then we have the ever popular melba toast, a crisp and dry—very,very dry—toast. And finally Melba Garniture, which is chicken, truffles and mushrooms stuffed into tomatoes with a velote sauce. Whatever you might think of Nellie's singing, she certainly inspired a lot of creativity in the kitchen. Escoffier, in particular, was smitten.
And that makes Nellie an eponym, a person after which something is named. Many scientists and inventors are eponyms—Louis Pasteur, Alessandro Volta, Andre-Marie Ampere, Georg Ohm, Nikola Tesla, Karl Benz, and closer to home, Henry Ford and Ransom E. Olds.
The Bible has a few eponyms too. Everyone understands what we mean when we say, "She is a Jezebel." That woman, whoever she may be, is a wicked, immoral person. Or, "He's a Jonah," which means he is a jinx. And of course, someone who is a "Judas" is a traitor.
So if you were an eponym, what would your name have come to mean? I find myself using the names of those who have gone on exactly that way at times. When I see a woman who constantly serves others, who is in the kitchen cooking for someone practically every minute of every day, whether because they are ill or just because she wants to do something nice for them, who puts thousands of miles on her car taking people to the doctor, who sews, and repairs clothing for others, and who still manages to keep a spotless home, too, I say, "She is a Melvene Wallace." If you were blessed enough to have known that good woman, you know exactly what I mean.
When I see a kind, gentle man, who is always looking after others, visiting the sick and the widows, inviting college students into his home for a meal, helping others with such mundane tasks as digging sweet potatoes or stacking wood, taking literal boatloads of fathers and sons on fishing trips, scheduling his vacations around gospel meetings so he can attend every night, and always in a pew with a smile when the doors of the meetinghouse are open, I say, "He's another Cedell Fletcher." And once again, if you had known him, you would instantly recognize the kind of man I mean. I miss both of those people so much that some days it physically hurts.
So here is your task for the day: What would your name be an eponym for? Recently, I had someone talk about hearing a "Dene-ism." I am not sure what to make of that, except maybe I talk too much! Some of us may not be known for anything particularly bad, like Jezebel, but are we known for anything at all? If someone tried to describe us by our demeanor and actions, would anyone say, "Oh yes, I know her." Or would they stand with a blank look on their faces, completely at a loss for words, "Who?"
You don't have to be a famous singer like Nellie Melba. You just have to be someone who does good for others in whatever way you can, whenever you can, for as long as you can. If no one else can make an eponym out of you, God will. You want it to be a good one.
Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13-14)