Did you know the last name of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has long been in ill repute in dictionaries worldwide?
The word chauvinism is typically used in the senses of either “an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex” or “undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs, has belonged or maybe to which one has been assigned . . . perhaps a police precinct?
The word may now have a sad new wrinkle and stretched to also mean an attitude of superiority toward another’s race or ethnicity, which is different from one’s own.
As we all know, Chauvin was just convicted of murdering George Floyd, which had infuriated millions and set off angry protests in the Twin Cities and around the world.
According to Merriam-Webster,”Chauvinism came into English from the French chauvinisme, taken from the name of a character (Nicolas Chauvin) in Théodore and Hippolyte Cogniard’s 1831 play La Cocarde tricolore.
Chauvin was noted for his excessive devotion to duty and patriotism, and this character trait is strongly reflected in the earliest recorded sense of chauvinism (“excessive or blind patriotism”).
The earliest known use was in 1851, but recent findings show we’ve been chauvinistic since at least the beginning of the 1840s.
So along with justice may have come new meaning to an old word, chauvinism.