Sunday, November 29, 2009


What is up with this?
Some of my favorite characters in fiction have become epithets that distort the original nature of their name-bearer:

Pollyanna -- "The novel's success brought the term 'Pollyanna' (along with the adjective 'pollyannaish' and the noun 'Pollyannaism') into the language to describe someone who seems always to be able to find something to be 'glad' about no matter what circumstances arise. It is sometimes used pejoratively, referring to someone whose optimism is excessive to the point of naïveté or refusing to accept the facts of an unfortunate situation."

Uncle Tom -- "Uncle Tom is a pejorative term for a black person who is perceived by others as behaving in a subservient manner to white authority figures, or as seeking ingratiation with them by way of unnecessary accommodation."

Little Lord Fauntleroy -- ""Little Lord Fauntleroy" is now most often used as a term of derision. It describes a pompous spoiled brat, usually a young male, who takes his wealth and privilege for granted (while this is obviously not consistent with the original character, it is inspired by the perceived self-righteousness of the little lord, and an assumed odiousness in his overweening goodness)."

(All are quotes from wikipedia articles by the same name; retrieved November 29, 2009).

All I can say is, don't let someone else's cynicism color your own usage.  Meet the original characters for yourself, then draw your own conclusions!

No comments: