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9 People With Awful Things Named After Them

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 6:43
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Many people work their entire lives to find a way to keep their names alive long after they’ve died. Some have buildings named after them, others get national holidays, and many just hope their children will carry on the family name and not do anything too stupid. But a few unlucky souls have their names permanently associated with something horrible, whether it’s an unsavory crime or crippling disorder. These nine people probably had something else in mind when they thought about the legacy they’d leave behind.
  1. Charles Lynch: The mention of the term “lynching” makes everyone a little uncomfortable today because of its racist undertones and a history most of us would like to forget. But the act of revenge (or justice, as some saw it) outside of the law used to be so much a part of daily life, that Charles Lynch didn’t mind the practice being named after him. Lynch was a Virginia citizen during the time of the American Revolution who headed up an unauthorized court to try people who were loyal to the British government. The punishment came to be called “lynching” or “lynch law.” Only later would it be associated with hanging and the torment of African Americans.
  2. Alois Alzheimer: There’s nothing worse than people weeping at the sound of your name, but many doctors and scientists who have made contributions to the field of medicine get the questionable honor of having a disease named after them. Alois Alzheimer certainly got a doozy of a disease. Alzheimer, a psychiatrist and neuropathologist, observed and researched the first case of presenile dementia, which would later be known as Alzheimer’s disease. A 51-year-old woman was behaving strangely and experiencing short-term memory loss. When she died in 1906, Alzheimer studied her brain and was able to provide evidence of the plaques and tangles that appeared there.
  3. Jules Léotard: If you’ve ever been stuck in a ballet class or forced to watch unattractive dancers bounce around, you know the torture of Jules Léotard’s invention. Léotard was a French acrobat who helped develop the trapeze arts in the 19th century. He of course needed clothing that wouldn’t get in his way while performing life-threatening feats (and he probably didn’t want his pants to fall off, either). His solution was the leotard, a one-piece, form-fitting item of clothing that made him a real crowd-pleaser with the ladies who came to watch him. Today, leotards can be a blessing or a curse for viewers, depending on who’s wearing them.
  4. Daniel Elmer Salmon: Kids everywhere who are denied raw cookie dough by their moms have Daniel Elmer Salmon to blame — or at least his name, which he lent to the nasty bacteria, salmonella. Salmon was a scientist who studied animal diseases for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1885, his research assistant was the first to discover and isolate a strain of the microorganisms, and he named it after Salmon. You can’t help but wonder, though, whether this was a compliment or a jab at Salmon’s managerial style. Salmonella, often found in raw eggs, can make you really sick if it’s consumed in large doses or by very young or very old people.
  5. Gary Larson: The creator of The Far Side comic strips was just strange enough to be considered a fitting namesake for a bug. A blood-sucking owl louse, to be exact, was named for the author and humorist — strigiphilus garylarsoni. Entomologists, those weird guys that study bugs, thought Larson deserved the honor because of his ability to get inside an insect’s head and tell a joke from its point of view. The Gary Larson louse is a chewing louse found on owls and it survives by cementing itself to the bird and living off its blood. Most people probably wouldn’t want to be associated with parasitic lice, but Larson says he was honored.
  6. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch: When Leopold von Sacher-Masoch first wrote about the pleasure of receiving pain, or masochism, everyone believed it was a purely fictitious story, but years later, it was revealed that the author himself probably suffered from the sexual abnormality. In his novel, Venus in Furs, Sacher-Masoch wrote about a relationship between a young man and a widow, where the young man becomes her slave in order to fuel his infatuation with her. She degrades him and treats him progressively worse, and he apparently likes it. The story is based on bizarre events in Sacher-Masoch’s real life, making him the original masochist.
  7. Diogenes of Sinope: Diogenes Syndrome is what you might discover when you turn on an episode of Hoarders. Diogenes of Sinope was an ancient Greek philosopher around the same time as Plato. Diogenes rejected conventional life and pulled a lot of stunts to demonstrate his philosophies. The syndrome that bears his name is also called senile squalor syndrome and is marked by self-neglect, squalor in the home, withdrawal, and compulsive hoarding. The name is thought by many to be insulting to the philosopher who didn’t exhibit the symptoms of the disorder, but considering Diogenes slept in a bathtub in the marketplace, urinated on people he didn’t like, and did a few other inappropriate things in public, he deserves some kind of memorial as someone who doesn’t fit in well with society.
  8. Mickey Finn: Girls are often warned to watch their cups when at a bar or party so that no one will “slip a mickey,” or put a drug, into their drink. This is also sometimes referred to as serving someone a Mickey Finn. As you might have suspected since he has such a disturbing act named after him, Mickey Finn was not a good guy. He managed and tended bar at a restaurant in Chicago around the turn of the 20th century. In order to rob the patrons, Finn and his associates would put a knockout drug into a customer’s drink. Once the man had passed out, Finn would take him into the back, rob him, and then dump him in the alley.
  9. Joseph Hooker: Hooker, the slang term for prostitute, probably didn’t originate with Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, but the story is so prevalent that it’s worth a mention. Hooker’s Civil War headquarters were apparently known for their crazy parties, lack of discipline, and abundance of women. There was rumored to be a group of prostitutes who followed Hooker’s division as they moved around and many called them Hooker’s Army. That’s where many say the term “hooker” started, but other sources say the term was in use before the Civil War and the rise of Hooker. It may have referred to an area where there were lots of prostitutes, Corlear’s Hook.

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Story by Jennifer Lynch

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  • hoadongtien

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