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December 09, 2010 Word of the Day

December 09, 2010

Word of the Day

  • burke
  • BERK


: to suppress quietly or indirectly
: bypass, avoid

The governor attempted to discreetly burke all inquiries into his alleged misuse of state funds.

"Meanwhile, I beg and beseech and instruct and order you, to see that the letter addressed to the Chief of Police is not burked." -- From Percival Christopher Wren's classic adventure novel Beau Geste


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.