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Funny English Language : English Words Derived From Real Life Baddies

Updated on December 6, 2015

Prince Grigory Potemkin


Baddies Should Not Have Been So Honored

I have written a few articles relating to the English language. This article will describe words derived from real life baddies, so bad that their names are immortalized in the English language. They have become famous for the wrong reason. There are English words honoring great personalities in the fields of literature, medicine, and the sciences. But these baddies got into the English dictionary because they were real bad. I shall share with you five baddies who in the first place, should not deserve to be mentioned in the English language, let alone given a slot each in the English vocabulary. Okay, let’s go after the baddies.

I got this information from a very interesting site from the internet, the link I shall provide at the end of this article.


The Five English Words From The Baddies

1.Ponzi scheme : (noun)

Ponzi scheme is a dubious investment plan in which unrealistically high returns are promised to the investors. The profits come from the investors themselves, in that early investors get paid handsomely from the funds collected from the later ones. In a way it is quite similar to the pyramid scheme.

The most famous operator of this very clever scheme was Charles Ponzi (1882-1949) from America. He was not the first to initiate such an “investment” scheme, but he held the record of operating on a massive scale.

2.Quisling : (noun/verb)

“Quisling” means “traitor, especially one who helps an invading enemy”.

Major Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), was a Norwegian army officer during World War II. He aided the Germans and became the head of the puppet regime in Norway, occupied by the Germans at that time. After the war, he was executed for treason.

3.Burke : (verb tr)

“Burke” means “to murder by suffocation, to silence or suppress, to avoid or bypass”.

Wliiliam Burke (1792-1829) was a Scottish who killed people for a living by selling their bodies to “professionals” for dissection. His standard method was to smother his victims to death leaving the bodies intact to be most suitable for body dissections. As the saying goes, those who live by the sword die by the sword. Burke was captured and sentenced to death by hanging. To serve him right, the honorable judge ordered that Burke’s body be similarly dissected in public!

4.Potemkin village : (noun)

A Potemkin village is a false impressive facade to hide the true nature of the place, usually less than desirable.

The term came from the incident where Prince Grigory Potemkin erected cardboard villages to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Ukraine and Crimea in 1787. This false façade strategy is a common technique used especially in autocratic regimes where the ugly side of affairs are purposely camouflaged to deceive either the dictators or foreign visitors.

5.Typhoid Mary : (noun)

"Typhoid Mary" means a person who starts the spread of a disease or something undesirable.

Mary Mallon (1869-1938), was a New Yorker who contracted typhoid, a contagious disease. But being a healthy carrier, without showing any external symptom, she spread the disease to others unknowingly. However, Mary did not die from typhoid, but succumbed to pneumonia.

I think it is rather unfair to include Mary as a “baddie” in this article. She was just an unfortunate victim who should deserve our sympathy instead of scorn. My opinion is that the website that provides this interesting information is quite unfair in Mary’s case. Poor Mary.

Well, I hope you enjoy reading about these baddies and their uncalled contributions to the English language, as much as I enjoy sharing with you.


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    • Good Guy profile image

      Justin Choo 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi alancaster149,

      Thanks for sharing more information here.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Interesting! Ponzi's a new one on me. There have been many conmen on the canvas of the financial world. The City of London is snowed under by court cases of swindlers, con-artists and fly-boys. In those days, before computers and online trading, the City would have been prone to embezzlement where a man's word was his bond.

      Quisling I know of well. We had a programme about his 'career' on the 'Yesterday' channel recently. He was misguided to begin with, although he'd been honoured by Britain for 'humanitarian' work between the wars, and dug himself in deeper as time went on. He had a rivalry with another Norwegian, who cosied up to Hitler in a bid to squeeze him out of the picture.

      As for Mr Burke - with his partner Hare - the 'resurrectionist' was looking for some sort of recognition as a work-creator. Trouble is, his idea of industry didn't meet with the official line. Burke and Hare were Irish immigrants to Edinburgh, by the way.

      Potemkin was another 'creative' type. The idea of putting up a 'smokescreen' of sham dwellings was adopted by the War Office here in WWII, to deflect German attention from D-Day preparations. Rubber tanks and other vehicles, barracks and tank tracks made on the ground to show German reconnaissance cameras that Gen. George Patten's ghost army was ready to invade the Pas de Calais, all served to reinforce messages from double agent 'Garbo' that the allies planned to attack at the narrowest point of the English Channel. The notion of crossing the widest point didn't fit in with the logic of German 'war-gamers'. We were only too willing to support their misconceptions. Anything to oblige, you know the Brits.

      As for Typhoid Mary, well, I'm with you there. There are carriers and sufferers in the game of survival.