Word quiz!

Who here knows the meaning of the word burke?

I didn’t until Merriam-Webster told me — in the Word of the Day, to which I subscribe.

What’s so cool about Word of the Day, apart from the obvious, is the etymology and/or colorful histories associated with some words.

Take burke — which means to suppress quietly or indirectly; to bypass, avoid.

“When an elderly pensioner died at the Edinburgh boarding house of William Hare in 1827, the proprietor and his friend William Burke decided to sell the body to a local anatomy school.

“The sale was so lucrative that they decided to make sure they could repeat it. They began luring nameless wanderers (who were not likely to be missed) into the house, getting them drunk, then smothering or strangling them and selling the bodies.

“The two disposed of at least 15 victims before murdering a local woman whose disappearance led to their arrest. At Burke’s execution (by hanging), irate crowds shouted ‘Burke him!’

“As a result of the case, the word ‘burke’ became a byword first for death by suffocation or strangulation and eventually for any cover-up.”

How can anyone passionate about words not love burke?!
And you can bet I’m salivating over the first opportunity to use it!


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