Of all the honors a man can be granted--statues, tributes, whores--there's nothing like having your last name turned into a word to ensure your immortality. Your name will ring down through the ages, etched into the language itself, an eternal reminder of your achievements.
Unless, of course, you earned the word because you fucked up so badly that the world just had to remember your horrible example. That's the case for guys like...
8John Duns Scotus
John Duns Scotus was the closest thing fifteenth-century philosophy had to a rock star. With the chick magnet handle "Doctor Subtilis," he developed a subtle argument for the existence of God, the univocity of being and mounted a spirited defense for the Immaculate Conception as fact. He was beatified by the Pope for his intellectual work and also for the invention of the Catholic schoolgirl.
How it Happened:
If the fifteenth century was Scotus's arena rock tour, the sixteenth was the sad crash and pathetic reunion tour playing state fairs and dives. Scotus's work was considered so awful that his middle name became synonymous with somebody incapable of scholarship, i.e. a dunce.
Yes, you read that right, a philosopher responsible for big chunks of Catholic thought and beatified by the freakin' Pope was also the inspiration for a word denoting a moron.
English. It's a cruel language, man.
7Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch
When somebody gets a boner from pain
We all know that "sadism" comes from the excruciating elevator music performed by pop band Sade, and the pleasure that comes from inflicting 80s music on the unsuspecting. The flip side of that coin is Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch.
Mostly, Sacher-Masoch was known for his novels, which apparently are really awesome if you can read German, as most of his fiction remains untranslated into English. But the important novel, which IS in English, would be "Venus In Furs." The fatal flaw of the English translation is leaving off the opening sentence: "Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me..."
How it Happened:
"Venus In Furs" isn't really a novel so much as a memoir. Sacher-Masoch, you see, had a mistress, Fanny Pistor, whose name was made for jokes. They entered into a contract where Leopold would be her slave for six months and his only stipulation was that she wear furs as much as possible, especially when she was in a "cruel mood." You can see where this one is going.
Hence, the word "masochism" was coined by noted psychologist Dr. von Krafft-Ebing in "Psychopathia Sexualis," along with the notation that "Venus In Furs" was also an awesome Velvet Underground song. Sacher-Masoch strenuously objected, but he was thrown out of Krafft-Ebing's office after someone punched him and he started breathing funny.