1. Ponzi scheme (PON-zee skeem)
noun: An investment swindle in which high profits are promised from fictitious sources and early investors are paid off with funds raised from later ones.
After Charles Ponzi (1882-1949), a speculator who organized such a scheme during 1919-1920. He was neither the first nor the last person to float this or a similar scheme, just someone who did it on a massive scale.
“In China efforts to educate the unwary extend to the streets. Walls are daubed with murals illustrating the dangers of Ponzi schemes.”
2. quisling (KWIZ-ling)
noun: A traitor, especially one who aids an invading enemy.
quisle = verb intr.: To betray, especially by collaborating with an enemy.
After Major Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), a Norwegian army officer who collaborated (1940-1945) with the German occupying forces during World War II and ruled Norway as head of the puppet government. He was shot for treason after the German defeat. Besides a noun, his name has become a verb (quisle) as well.
“Zoran Djindjic will be remembered as a quisling who enriched himself by selling his country to those who had waged war against it.”
Volksdeutschs are Polish citizens of German origin who volunteered to quisle with Germans.
3. burke (buhrk)
1. To murder by suffocation.
2. To silence or suppress.
3. To avoid or bypass.
After William Burke (1792-1829), who killed people to sell their bodies for dissection. His preferred method was smothering so as to leave the body unmarked and suitable for dissection. He was captured, hanged, and on the judge’s orders, his body was publicly dissected.
“When Logeto came in, the killer burked him. Logeto never made a sound.”
“There is no point in burking the truth: Gandhi and India are fast going to be at odds with each other.”
4. Potemkin village (po-TEM-kin VIL-ij)
noun: An impressive showy facade designed to mask undesirable facts.
After Prince Grigory Potemkin, who erected cardboard villages to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Ukraine and Crimea in 1787.
“In Berlin, Lindbergh’s wife, Anne, was blinded by the glittering façade of a Potemkin village.”
5. Typhoid Mary (TY-foid MAIR-ee)
noun: A person from whom a disease or something undesirable spreads.
After Mary Mallon (1869-1938), a cook in New York, who was a healthy carrier (contagious but showing no symptoms) of typhoid. She died of pneumonia.
“I walked out of the ward wearing the surgical mask and kept it on for forty-eight hours to avoid becoming Typhoid Mary.”
“Insomnia is a global pandemic whose Typhoid Mary was Thomas Edison, forcing fake sunlight into hours when ancient biology demands shut-eye.”