Word of the Week (145): HAWKSHAW (probability 40543), by David Sutton

A HAWKSHAW is colloquial American for a detective; it is one of those words we owe to a literary source, in this case an 1863 play 'The Ticket of Leave Man' by Tom Taylor, in which Hawkshaw is the name of the detective or gumshoe.

I wouldn't expect many people to be able to identify that particular literary origin, but you can probably do better on the following, all of which are literary characters that have given their names to generic types and thus become lowercased and playable. So what is the meaning and origin of BLUEBEARD, LOTHARIO, BENEDICK (or BENEDICT), HOTSPUR, SHERLOCK, SHYLOCK, TARTUFE (or TARTUFFE), POLLYANNA, GOLIATH, TARZAN, MALAPROP?

Answers (hover over to reveal):

BLUEBEARD is the hero (or villain) of a mediaeval French tale, a man who has murdered several wives and concealed their bodies.

A LOTHARIO is a seducer or rake, from the hero of Nicholas Rowe's 1703 play, 'The Fair Penitent'.

A BENEDICK or BENEDICT is a newly married man, especially one who has been a confirmed bachelor, from Benedict in Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

A TARTUFE or TARTUFFE is a hypocritical person who pretends to be deeply religious, from the title character in Molière's 1664 play 'Tartuffe'.

A HOTSPUR is a violent, rash man, being the nickname of Henry Percy (1364-1403), who figures in Shakespeare's play 'Henry IV Part 1'.

A POLLYANNA is an insufferably optimistic person, from Pollyanna, a fictional creation of US author Eleanor Hodgman Porter (1868-1920).

A MALAPROP is a misapplication of words without mispronunciation, from the character Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play 'The Rivals', who refers, for example, to 'allegories on the banks of the Nile'.

And I won't insult you by explaining SHERLOCK, SHYLOCK, GOLIATH or TARZAN.


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