Nicolas Chauvin is the name of a French patriot in the early 1800s, in the time of Napoleon. His name created the word chauvinist, but it turns out the meaning wasn’t originally what we mean with that phrase that always makes me laugh – “male chauvinist pig.”
The original chauvinist, however, was a French soldier whose patriotism was rather far on the excessive side. Nicolas Chauvin believed Napoleon Bonaparte was more or less perfect, and he was willing to follow Napoleon anywhere and everywhere, to do anything and everything to support his cause.
Many stories have been passed down through the years about Chauvin, but they generally agree that he was born in Rochefort, enlisted at a young age, and was wounded repeatedly (many stories say 17 separate times!). Chauvin was severely disfigured, due to his many injuries, and Napoleon himself presented him with the Sabre of Honor.
Nevertheless, in due time, Napoleon lost his power and was exiled. Then, Chauvin’s extreme loyalty to the losing side earned him plenty of derision under the new government. His blind faith in his leader was seen as foolish, ridiculous, and absurd.
Thus, the term chauvinist became used for those who harbored ridiculously extreme nationalism. Soon, anyone who had a absurdly strong attachment to any person, group or cause became known as a chauvinist. Now, we use the term primarily for men who staunchly believe in the superiority of men over women, regardless of the fact that both genders are absolutely necessary.
“Many claim to have unfailing love,
but a faithful person who can find?”
Sorry for the ridiculously long post. I’m afraid I find etymologies rather fascinating, and I’d never heard this one before!
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