Posted by: Jack Henry | December 18, 2017

Editor’s Corner: The Eleventh Day of English (2017)

On the eleventh day of English

My true love gave to me

A collection of archetypes

Like Nervous Nellie.

What is an archetype? According to Merriam-Webster, it is a “very typical example of a certain person or thing.” Today I have several of these from an article in Daily Writing Tips, where you can see the complete list of twenty, if you are interested.

Various expressions have arisen, sometimes from folkloric or historical origins, to describe types of people by assigning them with personal names. Here are twenty such appellations and their definitions and (sometimes only probable) origins.

1. Debbie Downer: a naysayer or pessimist; coined by joining an alliterative common name with a descriptive label

2. Doubting Thomas: a skeptic; inspired by the name of one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, who refused to believe in Jesus’s resurrection until he saw him

3. Gloomy Gus: (see “Debbie Downer”); based on a cartoon character named by joining an alliterative common name with a descriptive label

4. Good-Time Charlie: a hedonist; probably based on a reference in a Damon Runyon story about a speakeasy by that name

5. Handy Andy: a person with useful skills; inspired by rhyming a common name with a descriptive label

6. Jack-the-lad: an arrogant, carefree young man; probably inspired by the name of a thief who became a folk hero because of multiple escapes from prison

7. Kookaburra Kara: noisy girl with a large head; probably inspired by the Australian bird of the kookaburra and gumtree song. [KC – I’m totally kidding. Just trying to make sure you’re paying attention.]

8. Nervous Nellie: a timid, easily upset person of either gender; originally, a reference to a high-strung racehorse, influenced by Old Nell, a name associated with nags, or older horses

9. Peeping Tom: a voyeur; based on an apocryphal story of an onlooker (identified with a common name) during the based-in-fact tale of Lady Godiva

10. Simple Simon: a gullible, unintelligent person; derived from a folk character

11. Typhoid Mary: a person who spreads disease or another undesirable thing; named after Mary Mallon, an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid

A real kookaburra

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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