Imagine having your name turned into a common word that will still be in use hundreds of years after your death. Cool, huh? Now imagine that the word named after you means something like "He who has his way with farm animals." Before you say that something like that could never happen to you, consider the fact that it has totally happened to other people. You've almost certainly used some of those words at some point today.
We've told you before about the real men who inspired embarrassing words like "dunce" and "masochism," but they weren't the only ones in that unfortunate situation. Here are six more people who probably wished that everyone would just stop saying their names.
6 "Chauvinist" (from Nicolas Chauvin)
"Chauvinist," as in "Of course I know what 'chauvinist' means, you sexist pig."
Nicolas Chauvin was (supposedly) an early 19th century French army soldier and Napoleon Bonaparte's number one fan. When he wasn't singing praises to Napoleon, Chauvin passed the time getting poked at with bayonets. He is said to have been badly wounded in service a total of 17 times, and as a result, he "had three fingers amputated [and] suffered a shoulder fracture and a horridly disfiguring facial wound." And yet Chauvin kept coming back for more, fueled by his insane devotion to his beloved emperor.
"I only need two fingers to hold this ridiculous pipe."
In other words, the guy was basically a real-life version of the accident-prone Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies combined with Smithers from The Simpsons (with Napoleon being his Mr. Burns).
While Napoleon himself was apparently fond enough of Chauvin to reward his devotion with a small pension, everyone else saw him as a ridiculous ass-clown who took the whole "patriotism" thing way too far. After Napoleon's fall, Chauvin's name became a synonym for anyone who was extremely patriotic to the point of stupidity. Entire plays and books were written about the poor idiot -- how much of his life really happened and how much came from those stories is up for debate.
This roughly translates to "Chauvin the Shitheaded."
A century and a half later, the word "chauvinist" was adopted by 1960s feminists looking for a better way to describe men who are irrationally convinced of their own superiority, because sometimes "Nazi" just doesn't cut it. The new meaning soon overshadowed the old one, but what hasn't changed is that Chauvin is still a moron.
5 "Tawdry" (from St. Audrey)
"Tawdry," as in "Why did you say 'tawdry' when you could have said 'tacky' or something, you pretentious shit?"
St. Audrey (or Etheldreda) was the daughter of the king of East Anglia, England, who in the seventh century lived in a monastery and devoted her life to God. God, however, wasn't such a huge fan of Audrey, and she died of a nasty case of the plague. To add insult to injury, the Black Plague created a huge red pulsating growth on her neck, which was said to be divine punishment for the fancy necklaces she wore in her youth.
And for all the churches she destroyed as a giant.
After Audrey died, the locals at the Isle of Ely, where she founded a cathedral, honored her memory by holding an annual fair where showy but inexpensive silk and lace necklaces were sold (known as St. Audrey's lace). We're not sure if the point was to remember St. Audrey by covering imaginary tumors in your neck, mocking God for supposedly punishing his loyal servant for such a silly sin or just making money selling cheap stuff.
Whatever the case, the St. Audrey's lace, shortened to "tawdry lace," was considered popular for about 15 minutes before it fell out of fashion and became a synonym for any cheap, gaudy, poor-quality garment, and that meaning just caught on. Even in death, St. Audrey just couldn't catch a break.