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Uncommon Knowledge: Can you respect a chauvinist?

Adam the Doodles Man | UncommonGoodsYou might be surprised to learn the word “chauvinist” is based on a person’s name—that would be Nicolas Chauvin, of France. Chauvin was famous not for his mistreatment of women, but for his self-sacrificing patriotism. If the stories are to be believed (and some historians suggest they should not be), Chauvin was a soldier who served in the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. So fierce was his loyalty to his leader that he continued his career as a soldier even after seventeen combat wounds, including a broken shoulder, three lost fingers, and a disfiguring scar across his face. Fighting in the doomed battle at Waterloo, he is reputed to have shouted, “The Old Guard dies, but does not surrender!” In the generation after Waterloo, however, Napoleon became an object of general ridicule, and Chauvin’s unquestioning allegiance was popularized as an example of foolish fanaticism. It wasn’t until the feminist movement in the 20th century that this term came to be applied to unthinking devotion to one’s own gender.

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Written by Nathan

Nathan is a copywriter, who helps create our product descriptions as well as our weekly emails. He is also a nationally award-winning musical theater writer, whose work includes an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver. Nathan has also been a classical violinist, tutored Kazakhstani jewelers in entrepreneurship, created large-scale games played across entire city blocks, served as a missionary in South Korea, conducted experiments in sonoluminescence, co-founded an exotic fruit-growing business, was a theater critic for Tucson Weekly, and as a teenager composed a women’s jazz quartet that is currently performed around the world.

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