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8 People Who Inspired Words (For Embarrassing Reasons)

#4.
Thomas Bowdler

The Word:

Bowdlerize

Means:

Editing out the naughty bits from somebody else's work

The Man:

Thomas Bowdler spent most of his working life being fairly inoffensive. Mostly he advocated prison reform and played chess with the best player of the day, who took Bowdler so seriously he played against him blindfolded, sometimes without a pawn, while playing against other players at the same time. And kicked his ass. Three times. But that's not the reason Tommy gets a word in the English language.


Though, again, he totally sucked at chess.

How it Happened:

No, that happened when Bowdler decided to publish the Family Shakespeare. What's wrong with a Shakespeare collection? Plenty, when you decide to start cutting shit out in the name of decency. Apparently, Bowdler thought Shakespeare would be a lot more awesome without the swearing and hookers. Imagine Die Hard if your grandma was editing it. That's the Bowdler version of Shakespeare.

To celebrate the massive stick up his ass, the word "bowdlerize," meaning to edit out offensive content in a work already written, was coined, probably because they were too polite back in the 1800s to just come right out and call him a buzzkill to his face.

#3.
Vidkun Quisling

The Word:

Quisling

Means:

Traitor, or double agent

The Man:

Vidkun Quisling might as well just have his photo next to the word "loser" in the dictionary.

In 1933, Quisling founded National Unity, the Norwegian fascist party. Though his connections managed to bring in a whopping two percent of the national vote, the party steadily became less and less popular. Kind of like Ralph Nader, only more evil (but less obnoxious).


Still not as bad as Quisling, Nader just can't win.

Of course, the Nazis were buddies of his, or were until April 9th, 1940, when he blew their plan to smoothly take Norway over and make him head of the puppet government by blundering onto the air and essentially shouting "I'm Prime Minister now, bitches!" The king and the government took a dim view of this and, thanks to Quisling, taking Norway became a huge fight.

How it Happened:

Needless to say, Quisling was highly popular in Norway, so popular, in fact, that once the Nazis fell they wasted no time in killing his ass with a firing squad. Even then everyone was so pissed off at him that his last name became a synonym for "traitor."


"Even I think you're kind of a dick."

#2.
Jean Martinet

(Editor's Note: Okay, as you probably already know, the above guy isn't Jean Martinet. In fairness to us, it is really fucking hard to find a picture of an obscure French guy who died in the 1600s.)

The Word:

Martinet

Means:

A dick who follows the rules, no matter what

The Man:

Jean Martinet was really awesome at coming up with new ways to kill people or to kill people more efficiently, which was useful in 17th Century France, where killing people was all the rage. He introduced the bayonet, thus finally getting rid of the "pointy-sticks" part of the French military. He also actually made warfare more humane by inventing the depot system. Instead of raping and burning their way across whatever land they were in, including their own country, soldiers got food and clothing from storehouses on the road.


One of these people might be Jean Martinet.

How it Happened:

He also introduced drill methods to turn a bunch of hayseeds and mercs into a disciplined fighting force, and he quickly got a reputation for being a merciless prick. How merciless? A martinet is now the term for a humorless prick who rigidly follows the rules, no matter what. It's also the name of a whip.


Also considered humorless.

Later, Martinet died by "friendly fire" during battle, which we like to imagine involved about 17 of his own men "accidentally" stabbing him in the head.

#1.
Charles Lynch

The Word:

Lynch

Means:

To put to death without a trial, usually by hanging

The Man:

Things were pretty hairy during the Revolutionary War and, sometimes, you couldn't wait for details like "evidence" or "due process." Which is where Charles Lynch comes in.

Odd for a Quaker, Lynch really liked being in power and bossing people around. The Quakers actually booted him out for taking an oath of office, which handily lifted any sort of pansy-ass ideas about pacificism and paved the way for Lynch to tell other people to beat up some guy.


"That guy. He looks pretty guilty, I guess."

How it Happened:

Unlike most people, who if they wanted to kick ass joined the army, Lynch didn't like his opponents to be able to fight back. Hence, he rounded up anybody he thought was supporting the king and did everything from forcing them into the army to stealing their shit. Or he just had them whipped.

Under what law? HIS law. More specifically, the Lynch law, which in turn is the source for lynching, which today brings to mind crowds of rednecks with torches hanging a minority from a tree.

That's because Lynch had beating total strangers without due process legitimized by the Virginia government in 1782, thus laying down a fine Southern tradition which has endured to modern times.

Way to go, Chuck!

For some filthy etymology, check out 8 Everyday Words With X-Rated Origins. Or get your vernacular in check with 9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think.

And be sure to check out Cracked.com's Top Picks because the word "links" is derived from... just check them out, ok?

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