Two articles in today’s NYTimes employ the term “Potemkin.” An essay about Provincetown, RI quotes a year-long resident that the town in winter is “like a Potemkin village,” and another article, just eight pages later, uses the same word to describe a Williamsburg chocolate shop as a “Potemkin” factory.
The term is eighteenth century, related to Prince Grigory Potemkin, a lover of Catherine II, who supposedly duped the Empress by creating a fake portable village on the banks of the Dnieper River to impress Catherine as she journeyed to Crimea.
According to Wikipedia: “’Potemkin village’ has come to mean, especially in a political context, any hollow or false construct, physical or figurative, meant to hide an undesirable or potentially damaging situation…”
And, as in the NYTimes cases, “Potemkin” can also be used as an adjective to modify nouns other than “village.”
So, next time it is appropriate, impress your friends by using “Potemkin” and see if they are aware of its meaning.