On this day in 1945, Vidkun Quisling was convicted of high treason for his collaboration with the Germans during during World War II. A Norwegian politician, Quisling met with Hitler in April 1940, just prior to the Nazi invasion of Norway, and he was appointed Minister-President during the Nazi occupation of Norway. After the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945, Quisling was arrested and put on trial for his treasonist activities during the war and for his collaboration with the Nazis. After his conviction, he was executed by firing squad on October 24, 1945. Since that time his name has become synonymous with any traitor who collaborates with enemy occupiers (1).
The word quisling is a classic example of an eponym, a word derived from a real or imaginary person. For example, the word shrapnel evolved from Henry Shrapnel, an English artillery officer who developed an exploding shell that sent out bits of metal. Most often the capitalized proper noun that refers to the specific person becomes lowercase as it is transformed into a general noun, adjective, or verb.
Today’s Challenge: Quiz on Quisling-like Eponyms
Most eponyms have fairly positive, or at least neutral, connotations, such as sandwich, sideburns, and sequoia. The list of eponyms below, however, have entered the language with decidedly negative connotations. Do a bit of etymological research to see if you can discover the story and the character behind each word.
Quotation of the Day: There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings, as traitors. –Margaret Thatcher