Saturday, September 13, 2014

10 characters we know without even reading the book

I'm going with a list of my own today. These people have names which are bywords for their characters. I suppose you could say they may be typecast, but if you're the author who invented them, you should be congratulated for an excellent job at timeless characterisation. Characters from Dickens, Shakespeare and folklore have made it on my list, and also a couple of Bible anti-heroes.  As I said in the title, these folk are such epitomes of their names, we don't even need to read about them, in many cases, to know just what the person is like.
1) Pollyanna

If somebody calls you a Pollyanna, you know that they're saying you're a sunny optimist who always looks on the bright side, searches for the silver lining in every cloud and makes lemonade out of every bushel of sour lemons you're given. That is, unless they're being sarcastic, in which case you're really being accused of a gloomy, pessimistic outlook. This might happen most often, come to think of it. 'Yeah, thanks a lot, Pollyanna. Go and cheer someone else up, why don't you?'

2) Ebenezer Scrooge

When somebody is called a Scrooge, we instantly know they're being accused of stinginess and tight-fistedness. I'd heard my dad call a relative a Scrooge, (or Long Pockets, Short Arms) years before I'd ever read 'A Christmas Carol.' Another lesson we learn from poor old Ebenezer is that, even when he turned over a new leaf at the end and became a generous philanthropist, we remember him as mean and crotchety as he used to be. It seems it's possible to set your bad reputation in stone and he's a lesson to beware.

3) Casanova

When you hear a young man called a Casanova, it's a compliment in a way, but also carries connotations of womanisers and heart-breakers. So if you're a young woman and someone tells you, 'He's a bit of a Casanova', you have to make up your mind whether or not to take it as a warning. He may be a philanderer, beneath his smouldering good looks.

4) Romeo

This young man, on the other hand, is the perfect lover, sensitive, loyal and true to his woman. A young man may react to being called a Romeo depending on who says it. I'd say if it's a girl who has a serious crush on you, all may be good. However, if it comes from the mates in your peer group, they might be calling you sappy and making you the butt of jokes.

5) King Midas

'He has a Midas touch.' That's something we'd all love to be true about us. It's easy to forget the real agony poor King Midas went through in the story, when he was accidentally swamped by gold, including precious possessions and family members he'd rather not have touched. But when we hear somebody called this, we instantly form the picture of a person who is rich and skilful in their business dealings, without thinking about the bitter end of the story.

6) Goliath

When our first son was born weighing 10lb 13oz, one of the young dads from our circle of friends who was in the hospital for his own baby's birth, remarked, 'I hear you had a bit of a Goliath.' We knew that he was referring to the size of our cute baby, and his remark had nothing to do with Goliath's defeat at the hands of David. (Our second son's weight was 10lb 14oz. Being beaten by just one ounce made his brother heartbroken. Apparently he'd spent nine years regarding his birth size as a bit of a special feature which made him unique. Our daughter, at 9lb 5oz, was tiny.)

7) Frankenstein

This one gets serious literary buffs hopping mad. Many people are talking about the monster when they call somebody Frankenstein, but really, he was the doctor. So if somebody says, 'You're as ugly as Frankenstein,' you have the right to say, 'You have no idea what you're talking about. Frankenstein was quite a normal looking man.'

8) Robin Hood

You can always be pretty sure people are talking about a generous hearted outlaw. I even came across this name in the world of birds. During a walk at our local wetlands, somebody was telling us about a Robin Hood bird. It steals the eggs of those whose nests seem to be full, and drops them into empty ones of those who have lost their babies. A bit like the cuckoo I suppose, but I thought Robin Hood was a good name for this bird.

9) The Lone Ranger

'He's a bit like the lone ranger.' We don't need to hear any more. The person being described is a solitary type of person who enjoys his own company, doesn't seem to feel the need to seek company and confide in others, and may have an interesting mystique.

10) Judas

This is a name you don't want to be called. The ultimate traitor, who is capable of behaving like a friend to the end, not letting his duplicitous mask slip, and betraying a friend with a kiss.

I hope you enjoyed my list. There are bound to be plenty more, so please feel free to mention any in the comments or take this challenge on yourself. This has left me thinking how nice it would be to have a name which is synonymous with all the best qualities, such as faithfulness, fun, creativity and love.


  1. Wonderful list, Paula. It's great to be reminded of those characters who have become part of our vernacular.

    1. Hi Lynne,
      I was surprised how many there are, once I started thinking.

  2. Great choice of easily recognizable characters! I was also thinking of Inigo Montoya, the revenge-obssesed, fencing Spaniard from "The Princess Bride". :-) But maybe it's his quote that's made him well known.

    1. Hi Gwendolyn,
      Now you've given me an idea for a future post, match the easily recognisable quotes with the characters who said them :) The one by Inigo Montoya would have to be up there.

  3. Wonderful! I had a go at making my own list before read the blog. I only got to 7! How could I have missed Romeo and The Lone Ranger! Midas, i can understand...!

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      Were any of your 7 ones I hadn't thought of?

  4. Hi Paula Great list :) I thought of a few extra, surprisingly many of them were Biblical characters: being a Jeremiah or a Jonas or a Jezebel or a Doubting Thomas - and then perhaps being a Santa Claus or a Sherlock.

  5. Sorry typo - that should be Jonah not Jonas

    1. Those are great, Jenny. Thanks for adding them. Yes, poor Thomas, another casualty of one unguarded moment which he's renowned for, even though he also did and said a lot of brave and honorable things.

  6. Great topic! I wonder if Darth Vader would count?

    1. Hi Embassie,
      He's definitely someone we all know well. Perhaps he'd be another character recognised by his famous quote, as mentioned by Gwendolyn above. (In this case, "Luke, I'm your father) :)

    2. I've also thought of Dennis the Menace, a name we sometimes call our sons (in the fondest way).