A while back, in some thread I can’t find (it may have been one of those “things you’re amazed people don’t know” threads or it may have been a thread about how there was some campaign on the island of Lesbos trying to get people to stop using “lesbian” in the gay context) there were a few examples of words derived from either historical people or populaces that are now so firmly entrenched in the English language that almost all of the original connotation is pretty much missing.
I remember that one example was “draconian” and people contributed some others that I found really neat-o!
People use the Midas touch to indicate someone whose touch turns everything to gold –and this is a good thing.
The myth from ancient Greece is about a king who was so greedy he wanted the ability to turn everything that he touched into gold. His wish was granted –by the god Hermes, I believe- and the king then realized that this ability quickly became a curse as his food and then later daughter were turned into solid gold. Seems the original moral of the story of not being a greedy rat bastard has been lost with the mists of time.
Harvard fencing coach Robert Weyer turned the sport all around. He introduced more comfortable gear, and he invented several maneuvers that let Harvard dominate fencing for several years. He has been dead for decades, but even today, everyone knows about Bob Weyer fencing.