• chauvinism •
sho-vên-iz-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: 1. Exaggerated, blind patriotism to one's country. 2. Blind partisan commitment to any cause or position to the absolute exclusion of consideration of any other position.
Notes: Someone characterized by chauvinism is a chauvinist. This noun comes girded with an adjective, chauvinistic, and an adverb, chauvinistically. So, today's word lacks only a verbal form. In writing this word, be careful to write the digraph CH for the sound [sh] and remember that the middle vowel is I (i).
In Play: This Good Word applies most widely to the arena of politics: "US chauvinism is partially responsible for all the wars it undertakes around the globe." In the US today, however, we hear the word most often in the phrase male chauvinism: "Phil Anders has been accused of male chauvinism as a result of his long string of affairs with various women."
Word History: Today's word has an eponym in Nicholas Chauvin, a soldier of Napoleon's Grand Armée. Chauvin's militant devotion to the Empire long after it had passed was celebrated and ridiculed in the vaudeville play "La Cocarde tricolore" (1831), by Theodore and Hyppolyte Cogniard. This play contained a famous line, "je suis franšais, je suis Chauvin," which led to the original concept of chauvinism. Chauvin is the French version of Calvin, from a Roman name, Calvinus, based on calva "bald pate". (I would chauvinistically defend my respect for Rebecca Casper for suggesting today's Good Word.)