6 People Whose Names Took on Regrettable Meanings

#3. "Molotov Cocktail" (from Vyacheslav Molotov)


The Word:

"Molotov cocktail," as in "glass bottle of flammable liquid with a burning rag in the top that rioters throw at soldiers."

The Man:

Vyacheslav Molotov was a Soviet politician who first took office in 1921 and managed to hang on until 1957. He was Stalin's protege and a freaking machine of international politics. Seriously. Winston Churchill once said of him, "I have never met a human being who more perfectly represented the modern conception of a robot."

But damn did he look pimpin' in a red hat.

In 1939, the Soviets began bombing the shit out of Finland, since those crazy Finns kept declining to hand over their territory to the Soviet Union. This wasn't the most unpopular invasion going on in Europe at the time, but it wasn't exactly well-seen, either.

However, our pal Molotov, then serving as the people's commissar of foreign affairs, had it covered: He claimed on the radio that his country was not bombing anything; they were merely "dropping food" to help the poor, starving Finns. Food that exploded, and that strictly speaking did save the Finns from starving, but only by blowing them to pieces.

"And then the survivors have several hundred pounds of broiled meat, ready to eat!"

In response to these statements, the amused/horrified Finns began calling the clearly non-edible Soviet cluster bombs "Molotov bread baskets" after the Soviet minister.

To repay the Soviets' kindness, the Finns also began greeting incoming tanks with "Molotov cocktails" -- improvised fire bombs consisting of glass bottles filled with explosive substances, which they claimed were just "a drink to go with the food." Because if there's one thing Finland loves more than protecting its land, it's food-based jokes.

They really missed a softball dick joke with this one, though.

Although this type of weapon already existed, the name "Molotov cocktail" stuck from then on, much to the namesake comrade's annoyance.

#2. "Jackanapes" (from William "Jack-a-Napes" de la Pole)

Carl de Souza / Getty

The Word:

"Jackanapes," as in the old-timey insult. Call somebody one at school or work tomorrow, it will confuse them.

The Man:

In the 15th century, William de la Pole, first duke of Suffolk, was a well-known British admiral and rich person. He was one of the first merchants to really rise to super-rich status, and as such he managed to piss off every other commoner without royal blood running through their veins who didn't get to mingle with the aristocracy or have their own giant statues made.

Steve Cameron
"This statue is a memorial to the giant pile of money that paid for it."

Since he was a minister of King Henry VI, de la Pole also shows up in a couple of Shakespeare's plays, and like Shakespeare, he too is responsible for expanding our vocabulary. But not in a good way.

De la Pole and his family used a somewhat pompous coat of arms that included a collar and a chain, which people took as an opportunity to compare him to a chained monkey. Back then, monkeys were commonly (and bizarrely) known as "Jack from Nepal," since most of them were imported from that country and they ... sorta look like Jacks, we guess?

Huh. We would have pegged him as a Mike.

Anyway, de la Pole's detractors nicknamed him "Jack-a-Napes," completely missing the fact that the dude literally had the word "pole" in his name. We can think of at least 15 better pole-related nicknames for the guy. But back to the point: As a testament to de la Pole's popularity, his nickname became a common insult for the English folk.

#1. "Guillotine" (from Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin)

Paul Glazzard

The Word:

"Guillotine," as in the head-chopping execution machine.

The Man:

"Dr. Guillotin" sounds like the name of a comic book villain whose power is decapitating people, but in reality he was the exact opposite of that. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a French physician and humanitarian during the post-Revolution period who strongly opposed capital punishment.

The original hippie.

Finding it impossible to convince his countrymen that chopping off heads wasn't a nice thing to do, Guillotin resigned himself to at least trying to make the executions a little more humane. At the time, people were either hanged or put to death with axes, which was messy and took a few whacks to get the job done. This was a problem for both the guy lying there with half his neck exposed and whoever was in charge of the executioner's dry-cleaning.

Guillotin proposed a recently invented device (not by him) that would quickly and cleanly cut people's heads off, the then-called "machine that cuts people's heads off." In 1789, during an assembly on capital punishment, Guillotin clumsily tried to convince everyone to adopt this device by stating that "Now, with my machine, I cut your head off in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it!" The room erupted in laughter at that sentence, and Guillotin's speech soon went viral. He was mocked in periodicals, and parody songs were written about him by the Weird Als of the day, like the following:

Google Books
Sung to the tune of "Hot for Teacher."

Eventually, it was decided that Guillotin may have been onto something and the head-cutting device was officially adopted by the French government. However, Guillotin and his family were embarrassed by their ironic association with the machine, so they requested to the government that they change its name -- 45 minutes of solid laughter later, the government said no, so they decided to change theirs instead.

Eric Yosomono writes for GaijinAss.com and you should LIKE them on the GaijinAss FaceBook page! Josh wants to be your friend on Facebook because he loves you.

For more help with your SATs, check out 6 Everyday Words With Disturbing Alternate Meanings and 9 Words You've Used Today With Bizarre Criminal Origins.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 3 Most Spectacularly Full of Crap 'Experts'.

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