Thursday, March 08, 2007

Evil Despots with Great Names

Part of the key to being a truly terrible leader is chosing the right name, something with the perfect evil-with-a-touch-of-crazy that sends people scampering for cover. Here are my offerings for Best Evil Despot names--in order of name appeal.

1. Caligula Ruled from 37 A.D. to 41 A.D. Technically just his nickname but as nicknames go it's pretty fun. This Roman emporor known for his cruelty and insanity was murdered by his own guards and enjoyed enough debauchery to impress even Hollywood (now that's saying something). I can't hear the name without hearing that Muppet Show song "Manamana" only with "Caligula."

2. Robert Mugabe President of Zibabwe since 1980 this tyrant has made life for Zibabweans less than ideal. He gets extra points for dominating a country with a cool name even though his first name is so . . . so . . . well, he gets a spot on the list for a fun last name. You think anyone calls him Bob?

3. Hosni Mubarak Current president of Egypt since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 he's Egypt's autocrat du jour. He doesn't get the publicity he deserves because hey, in the middle east you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an evil despot and exercising complete control over one's citizens is too commonplace to be newsworthy but he's making this list for his Jedi-like name. Hosni Mubarak, Jedi knight.

Genghis Khan4. Genghis Khan Honestly, Kubla Khan is a better name "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree where Alph the sacred river ran through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea" (I love S.T. Coleridge) but Genghis, his more famous predecessor who founded the Mongol Empire in the 13th and 14th centuries has the better name. You could argue he wasn't a despot at all but a military genius but somehow the line between military genius and totalitarian demagogue was rather hazy in the 14th century.

5. Chou En-lai Also perhaps not fully qualified as a true Evil Despot unless you count the fact he was one of the major leaders of Communism in China, bringing on the Revolution and the infamous Cultural Revolution which sent countless Chinese to their deaths. He did eventually switch his policies, shielding many from the effects of the Cultural Revolution, but I can't hear his name without thinking it would make a great name for a bed and breakfast.

Pol Pot6. Pol Pot Here's one who definitely qualifies for the title. Ruler of the Khmer Rouge and Prime Minister of Cambodia 1976-1979, without him The Killing Fields wouldn't have been made. Also know by a nickname which is short for Politique Potentielle (if I'm remembering my French correctly) Pol Pot sounds happy and jolly and delightfully chubby but don't you believe it. He's thought responsible for the deaths of 1.5 million Cambodians.

7. Idi Amin President of Uganda from 1971-1979. History isn't sure how many people he killed, somewhere between 80,000-300,000 depending on who you're hearing. Christians, Indians, ethnic groups, he went after anyone and regardless of his lilting name (which is even better if you add his last name too, Idi Amin Dada) he was a true evil despot.

8. Ivan the Terrible Not necessarily one that trips over the tongue but you have to give credit to the first world leader to get an added name in quotes. Nowadays he would have been a professional wrestler with his own announcer: "And now, weighing in at 320 pounds of pure evil, we have in this corner with his army of conscripted serfs: Ivannnnnnnnnn the Terrrrrrrrible!!!!" and the crowd would then boo.

Momar Qadafi9. Mommar Qadafi Not only a slippery man but a slippery name. How the heck is this thing spelled? Momar? Mommar? Muammar? Mohammar? Moammar? Kadafi? Qadafi? Gaddafi? Qadhafi? Qaddafi? Gadhafi? You just try Googling this guy, you can't get any info because you can't figure out how it's spelled. No wonder the CIA couldn't get rid of him, they couldn't spell his name.

10. Attila the Hun Feared by anyone with half a brain in 5th century Europe this man conquered anything and everything, creating an empire stretching throughout Europe. He invaded, raped, pillaged, burned and sacked in an effort to rule the world. I bet he was very short.

11. Nicolae Ceausescu A little closer to home historically, I still remember hearing about what this man had singlehandedly done to Romania from 1965 until his execution in--when was it? 1988? 1989? I should say nearly singlehandedly because he had a lot of help from his dear wife, Elena. And as every evil despot knows, behind every truly evil despot there's a truly evil woman. Perhaps several as the men tend to go through them rather fast.

12. Mao Zedong Another hard to spell name. Memo to future tyrants: If you want to get more air time, get a standard Anglicization of your name. One of my kids used to have a stuffed mouse that was named Mousy Tong.

Vlad the Impaler13. Vlad the Impaler The hands-down best evil overlord name in the book. Short, descriptive, terror-provoking, all-in-all the perfect name for one looking to rule the world in complete and total domination. So terrifying he gets his very own vampire alter-ego (Dracula). With a name like Vlad the Impaler I doubt he got many dinner invitations (would they call him Mr. Impaler?) You've got to look twice at a country like Romania when they can produce both Vlad the Impaler and Nicolae Ceausescu.

Honorable Mention: Ayatolla Humani. Just for old times sake. The 80s wouldn't have been the same without him--and the irony that his last name could be spelled Humane is too delicious for words.

I've had many people express interest in having the code for the new custom search engine for momblogs that I've put together. If you would like the code for your blog please email me and I can send it to you. Also, Lucy at An Ordinary Mom enlisted her brother's help at MG Wallace Designs in making a button that links to the search engine if you'd prefer to display a graphic instead of the search bar. He did a wonderful job and provided six different graphics from which you could choose.

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Jenny McB said...

Now here is a 13 with a lot of thought in it. My son the history buff would enjoy telling me all about these. But no Hitler? Interesting list.

My 13 is a little more light hearted.

armywife said...

wow, what a great list; i was a history major so this was a fun stroll down memory lane. and you are right, vlad is the best name.

Anonymous said...

Caligula and Vlad...two of my favorite Evil Despots!

now I need to get that manamana song out of my head!

Happy TT! Mine are up!

Anonymous said...

What a great list! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Ha, I have a cat named Chairman Mao. He's Siamese, though. Not Chinese. ;-D

Happy TT! Mine's up: thirteen of my favorite paintings.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought attention to bad guys that many people tend to forget instead of the most recent ones. Great list.

Southern Girl said...

Hey, an educational TT! I like that. Going strictly on name only, I think Pol Pot is my favorite. ;)

My TT is up, too.

Rashenbo said...

What... no Borat!!! :) Heheheh, Yeah Caligula and Vlad are awesome, they get lots of press though. Some of these others are less known to me and pretty darn cool to read about. Thanks much, Scribbit!

Anonymous said...

I totally enjoyed this list!

When I was a child our neighbors had a dart board in their garage that said, "Shoot a hole-a in the Ayatolla"... funny!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to say... the dart board had a picture of the Ayatolla on it as well.

Manamana... thanks a lot! My brother use to sing that song to me all the live long day. Ah, good times.

Catherine said...

What a fun post this was to read! On a slightly different note, but yet not, I LOVE hearing NPR for several reasons, but one reason is just to hear the reporters say their names... Sylvia Poggioli. Lakshmi Singh. Neda Ulaby. Snighda Prakash. And my favorite... Libby Lewis who always reports on Lewis Libby's news.

Okay, I'm done hijacking your comments now. :)

Girlplustwo said...

and you say you are not a thinking

i learned a lot about pol pot during my travels to cambodia. he was one evil punk.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post! Oh, so funny.

"I bet he was very short."

That made me laugh out loud.

Gattina said...

I would have put Hitler in your list instead of Moubarak. I have been 8 times in Egypt and only noticed that he has done quite a lot for the people and is also appreciated. The only thing what Egyptians are complaining about him is that he gets old now, and that he is too long on the top of the government.

Raggedy said...

I enjoyed reading your TT.
Terrific Thursday Thirteen!
My TT is posted.
Have a wonderful day!
Happy TT'ing!
(")_ (")Š

Sharon L. Holland said...

Hmm. May I suggest Tammerlane and Sennacherib?

Anonymous said...

That is a true 13...

Excellent list.

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

Ooh, a very interesting TT! My in-laws were expelled from Uganda when Idi Amin banned foreigners.

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Great list.. I hadn't heard of a couple of these. I just got my history lesson for today!

K T Cat said...

And Mao wins the coveted "I killed the most people" trophy for having wiped out 30 million or so of his own citizens in The Great Leap Forward. Who knew that leaving your harvest to rot on the ground while you tried to make pig iron in the backyard would lead to famine?

My TT is up.

Carmen said...

I need to get a scary name. Carmen the Impossible or somthing. :)

Caylynn said...

Creative list! A lot of the Roman emperors seem to have been evil despots, including Caligula and Nero.

Thanks for the history lesson touched with some humour. :)

I see a bunch of the comments mention Hitler, and although he was a very evil man, his name just didn't have the same ring to it as the other names on your list, and since you did title it "Evil Despots with Great Names" clearly having an interesting name is a criteria for the list!

Happy T13. :)

Julie Q. said...

What a terrific (and terrible) list. I had to forward the link to Ethan who will get a real kick out of it. He's a history fanatic.

My favorite story about Caligula is that he appointed his horse consul. Kind of makes all the silliness about the White House pets pale in comparison.

Heather said...

My Mom has always wanted to run her own B&B. Maybe I'll suggets Chou En-lai to her. LOL!
Idi Amin always reminds me of an episode of 'Wings'. They were opening a martini bar and named one of the drinks the "Idi Amin-i Martini". Cute, huh?

JAM said...

I always liked the name Nicolae Ceausescu. Because it took a while to learn to say it, and since I went through all that trouble, I said it a lot. Saying his name was like trying to speak clearly with marbles in my mouth.

But Vlad The Impaler is the best, in my opinion. Being from Louisiana, and a product of Louisiana public schools, I am a really big fan of being plain-spoken. Why use a big word, when a small one means the same thing?

Vlad the Impaler is a)easy for me to wrap my hick accent around, and b) it creates a vivid mental picture of what the guy is all about, you know?

Simple. I like simple.

Unknown said...

hmm.. cannot avoid wondering why this topic on woman 's day...;-D)

anyways.. happy women's day..;)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Names are important, aren't they?

I still think hockey players have the best name (come on, Vinne Damphousse?), but this list gives them a run for their money, for sure!

Gina said...

"happy & jolly & delightfully chubby" , Pol Pot is not! =) Oh, you are so delightful Michelle! Now I have this cute happy images of a Pol Pot in my head.

Robby/ Bob Mugabe,hmmmm..Sounds okay to me.

Thanks for a little bit of History review & Happy Thirteening!

Carina said...

That is a truly great TT! I'm impressed, and I learned a little.

Anonymous said...

Genghis Khan is my favorite person in all of history. I was randomly assigned a research paper on him back in the college days and after getting started, I wound up reading everything about him I could get my hands on. I wrote on him for a three more research papers and the teacher who originally assigned me the topic let me do the entire lecture in class on him. One bad mofo, that man.

Other historical bad guys with names I'm fond of -- Rasputin and Papa Doc Duvalier.

Pieces said...

Great list! Vlad the Impaler is indeed a name that says it all.

Jen said...

Caligula...doot doo da doo doot...That is going to be in my head all.stinkin'.day. Thanks ever so much. ; )
And I had a shih-tzu named Ghengis Khan. I am not making this up. Evil little dog. Seriously, he would go on rampages and attack me and if you haven't seen a shih-tzu attack a 5'11" 13 year old, well, then you just haven't lived! ; )

Mercy's Maid said...

What a creative topic!

In one of my college classes, we discussed Mao and were told that he earned a nickname of Mousy Dung. :)

Stephanie Appleton said...

very interesting list. Kellen did a short unit on 20th century bad guys in the fall. I bet he'd really enjoy this list! I'll show him later. He is out holler climbing now!:)

Christie O. said...

you're so right about all of them! Caligula's one of my favorites! I can just hear Jerry Seinfeld saying .. "Alrighty there, Caligula".

Blog said...

Awesome awesome awesome! I think I like Caligula best. Rolls off the tongue. :)

Jane said...

There is a kosher Chinese resturant here in LA called Genghis Cohen. I thought that was pretty clever! Interesting list and sadly there are many more names that could have qualified.

Anonymous said...

What a great list. I can't wait to share your list with my history crazed friends. It'll give us a lot to talk about this weekend.

JHS said...

Wow. I'm humbled and impressed by all the information you provided us. Great job.

The Estrogen Files said...

"Hosni Mubarak, Jedi knight." (Snort of laughter ) This is funny! Probably the only funny part of the evil despots.

Tell me, what caused this list?

Anonymous said...

Loved your list! :) I remember being younger and running around with my sister...she'd say in a high squeaky voice, "Idi Amin" then we'd have a dramatic pause, and I'd say slowly and deeply, "DAAAA-DAAAAA!"

Tiny little thought about your honorable mention, though... "Ayatollah Khomeini" is how I learned his name. Then again, I had just moved to the South, so maybe they pronounced the "K" when they shouldn't have? (NOT disparaging Southerners here...I'm a proudly transplanted Southerner.)

electronic dartboard said...

Love the list. My dog is named Vlad. Named after you know who.