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Words from forgotten fictional characters
Posted: 29 August 2007 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I was thinking about the jazz musician Gil Evans, which led to remembering that his name was an anagram of “Svengali”, rather appropriate considering the role he played in the career of people such as Miles Davis, which led me to consider that, while most people know what “a Svengali” is, very few, probably, know that Svengali was a character from the novel Trilby by George du Maurier (which, of course, also gave us “Trilby” as the name of a type of hat), or know that there ever WAS a novel called Trilby, or an author called George du Maurier.

I couldn’t immediately think of any other fictional characters whose names have become reasonably well-known words, but who come from works (plays/novels) that have vanished from popular consciousness - the origins of “Scrooge”, for example, are very well known. Can anybody supply others like “Svengali”?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Is “malapropism” common enough? I’d bet a majority of people who can tell you what a malapropism is still don’t know there was a Mrs. Malaprop, and fewer still know of Richard Brinsley Sheridan or The Rivals.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I can only think of Pecksniff which probably no one uses any more.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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How about “Goody Two-Shoes”?

“Hawkshaw” for a detective is probably obsolete.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Grepping the OED, I find this etymology for schlemiel: Yiddish, possibly ad. Heb. Shelumiel, name of a person in the Bible (Num. i. 6) said by the Talmud to have met with an unhappy end; perh. influenced by the name of the eponymous hero of A. von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (1814).

And (head slap) gargantuan, of course.

[ Edited: 29 August 2007 09:52 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 29 August 2007 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yahoo.
Shylock (how many people, I wonder, think that Shylock was the Merchant of Venice?)
Gargantuan
Lady Bountiful

(Ed. “gargantuan” --- all yours, dr. T.)

[ Edited: 29 August 2007 10:01 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 29 August 2007 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hey, do I make jokes about your weight?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Tom Swifty?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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milquetoast

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Posted: 29 August 2007 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Macguffin.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Macguffin

...is a character in what fictional work?

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Posted: 29 August 2007 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Lothario.

Jinx.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 08:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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"Lothario” is brilliant*, and of course, calls to mind “Don Juan”. But I don’t think “jinx” fits the OP’s definition.

*the name of the play in which Lothario appears, and that of its author, are so forgettable that I’ve already forgotten them, five minutes after looking them up

(Dr. Techie: I never guessed!!!! Here i was, with an image of you as gaunt, ascetic, frowning --- more Loyola than Gargantua. just goes to show --- one never knows..... ;-) ;-) ;-)

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Posted: 29 August 2007 08:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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But I don’t think “jinx” fits the OP’s definition.

Check out Dave’s Big List entry for “jinx”, which was recently revised on the basis of Douglas Wilson’s remarkable work.  He makes a persuasive case that the modern usage comes from a fictional character called Jinks Hoodoo.

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Posted: 29 August 2007 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Thanks—should have done that before. shows how much of a neophyte at this game I still am (I was a beginner at bridge for several decades, too, before giving it up while I still had a few friends). And I’ve no notion of Douglas Wilson’s work, nor of its author either. Wikipedia disambiguation lists eight real-life Douglas Wilsons, none of them very likely candidates for authorship of the “remarkable work” you mention. Google’s not much help.  “Simplified Roof Framing”.  “The Origins of Undersea Canyons”. “....An Intimate Biography of Lloyd C. Douglas”.

I’d appreciate a few more details.

(Edited for more exact quotation)
(Edited for even more exact quotation)

[ Edited: 29 August 2007 10:42 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 30 August 2007 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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lionello - 29 August 2007 08:33 PM

“Lothario" is brilliant*, and of course, calls to mind “Don Juan”. But I don’t think “jinx” fits the OP’s definition.

*the name of the play in which Lothario appears, and that of its author, are so forgettable that I’ve already forgotten them, five minutes after looking them up

(Dr. Techie: I never guessed!!!! Here i was, with an image of you as gaunt, ascetic, frowning --- more Loyola than Gargantua. just goes to show --- one never knows..... ;-) ;-) ;-)

Rowe’s The Fair Penitent (1703), which was an adaptation of an earlier work by the Jacobean dramatist Massinger (although Lothario is Rowe’s creation).  Nicholas Rowe was also produced the first modern edition of Shakespeare (as opposed to the Folio editions of the 17th century) which was prefixed by a priceless biography of the poet, preserving facts and traditions which might otherwise have been lost. We owe him a great debt. (I know you looked it up, Lionello, but I have a soft spot for Rowe and couldn’t bear to see him go unmentioned. His Jane Shore isn’t bad, actually, Although his reputation as a dramatist has taken a tumble, his plays were hugely popular in the early 18th century.)

Now for some character names

Stentor (the guy in the Iliad with the stentorian voice)
Pantagruel (Gargantua’s son) - Pantagruelian in OED has as one of its meanings comically inflated, grotesque.
Mrs Grundy (from Speed the Plow, 1798, by Thomas Morton)

Here’s one you dpn’t see much now, Box and Cox. To quote OED

The name of a farce written by J. M. Morton (1811-91) in 1847, in which two characters, John Box and James Cox, occupy the same apartment (the one by day and the other by night); hence applied allusively to an arrangement in which two persons take turns in sustaining a part, occupying a position, or the like.

[ Edited: 30 August 2007 03:00 AM by aldiboronti ]
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