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A.Word.A.Day--Potemkin village

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Potemkin village (po-TEM-kin VIL-ij) noun

An impressive showy facade designed to mask undesirable facts.

[After Prince Potemkin, who erected cardboard villages for Catherine II's visit to Ukraine and Crimea in 1787.]

"And that raises the key question: is SBC serious? ... Or is this all a Potemkin village, meant to impress regulators?"
Seth Schiesel, SBC Is Going National With Its Local Service, The New York Times, Oct 9, 2000.

Imagine a Hollywood set and you'd have a good idea of the original Potemkin village. In 1787, when Catherine the Great visited Ukraine and Crimea, Prince Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin (1739-1791), a Russian army officer, statesman, and her lover, decided to put up elaborate cardboard houses apparently full of splendor in the villages Catherine was shown. While this setup depicted an illusion of prosperity, the real condition of the village was hidden behind this facade. A Potemkin village is, in other words, whitewash taken to the Nth degree.

While Potemkin is the subject of many a legend, Potemkin village is his claim to fame. Terms named after people, such as this one, are called eponyms. This week in AWAD we'll see some more not-so-common eponyms.


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