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Being a real _(person's name)_
March 3, 2014 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for first names that are used to describe a kind of person or that person's actions. For example: if you are accused of being a "Pollyanna", it means you have sort of a blind optimism or more generally harbor a positivity bias (and it's not usually a compliment). What are some other names that are shorthand for character traits?

I'm not looking for movements associated with the last name of a founder. Such a list would be endless.
posted by 2bucksplus to Writing & Language (81 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Plain Jane?
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:05 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Jack (of all trades)?

Dick?
posted by bearette at 3:08 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Doubting Thomas. Nervous Nancy.
posted by shiu mai baby at 3:08 PM on March 3


molly mormon
suzy homemaker
posted by nadawi at 3:08 PM on March 3


Mary Sue
posted by Mchelly at 3:08 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


Mary Sue
posted by mochapickle at 3:09 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Also Nellie, but not used in a good way.
posted by Mchelly at 3:09 PM on March 3


Judas.

Chatty Kathy.
posted by teleri025 at 3:09 PM on March 3


"Guido" and "Lolita."
posted by griphus at 3:10 PM on March 3 [8 favorites]


Ned?
posted by Violet Femme at 3:10 PM on March 3


Betty
posted by jabes at 3:10 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, I keep thinking of more:
Uncle Tom
Jezebel
Eyeore
posted by teleri025 at 3:11 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


(Although "Guido" may not fit depending on whether the term is derived from the name. According to Wikipedia, it is not, but that's Wikipedia.)
posted by griphus at 3:12 PM on March 3


Gloomy Gus
posted by bearette at 3:12 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Joe
posted by michaelh at 3:14 PM on March 3


Harry (in Norway.)
posted by michaelh at 3:15 PM on March 3


Sally.
posted by DuckGirl at 3:15 PM on March 3


Ebenezer. (The last name Scrooge is implied, but if someone calls you Ebenezer around the holidays, you know exactly what they mean.)
posted by mochapickle at 3:15 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


In the C17th and C18th, "Abigail" was used to mean a lady's maid.
posted by yoink at 3:16 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Similarly, Veruca, if both speaker and audience have read Dahl.
posted by mochapickle at 3:16 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, and "Happy as Larry" is fairly common Australasian slang.
posted by yoink at 3:17 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Lilith
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 3:18 PM on March 3


Sherlock.
Don Juan and Don Quixote.
Fonzie/Fonzie-ing it.
posted by michaelh at 3:18 PM on March 3


Another: "John" to mean prostitute's client.
posted by yoink at 3:18 PM on March 3


Nancy (both negative- and -boy)
posted by Violet Femme at 3:19 PM on March 3


Calling someone "a Jeremiah" carries the implication that they're a pessimist.
posted by meronym at 3:19 PM on March 3


Nosey Parker
Peeping Tom
posted by wats at 3:20 PM on March 3


Jezebel.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:21 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Romeo
posted by drlith at 3:23 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


similarly, Iago.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 3:24 PM on March 3


A Simon Legree (also from Uncle Tom's Cabin) is a cruel taskmaster. A Wendy, from Peter Pan, is a female partner who enables childish dependency in a grown man (although for all I know it has crossed genders and orientations, if it's ever used at all anymore), and a Peter Pan refuses to grow up. When I was a kid the Peanuts character Pigpen was used to refer to someone who was messy. Old-fashioned again, but a Casonova is a seducer, or at least a romantic.
posted by angiep at 3:25 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Fabio
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 3:25 PM on March 3


In a similar vein to Romeo, a Valentino or Casanova.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:26 PM on March 3


Nervous Nellie.
posted by Kangaroo at 3:26 PM on March 3


Pansy
Patsy
Nimrod
posted by eponym at 3:27 PM on March 3


George
posted by Rash at 3:30 PM on March 3


Cassandra
posted by Mchelly at 3:30 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


Growing up in the UK, you didn't want to be a Kevin ...
posted by woodman at 3:36 PM on March 3


Practically archaic at this point, but: Nutsy Fagan.
posted by Bromius at 3:38 PM on March 3


From contemporary-ish TV shows:
Debbie Downer (Saturday Night Live)
You Britta'd it (Community)
posted by mhum at 3:43 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Sheila (in Australia)
posted by Mchelly at 3:45 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Lighten up, Francis.
posted by adamrice at 3:51 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


calling someone "LeBron" has all sorts of connotations, depending on context.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 3:54 PM on March 3


Božo (as "Bozo", at least here in the U.S.)
posted by straw at 3:55 PM on March 3


Betty.

Jo March Bhaer though Nan would be a good addition to Plumfield because ""[I]t will do Posy good. she is getting prim and bettyish, and needs stirring up a bit." (Posy was the nickname for Jo's niece Daisy.)
posted by jgirl at 4:00 PM on March 3


Hooray Henry
Joe College
GI Joe
posted by Ideefixe at 4:02 PM on March 3


Peter Pan.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:08 PM on March 3


Barbie.
posted by mochapickle at 4:14 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Tommy - British soldier
Jack Tar - sailor
Good-time Charlie
posted by islander at 4:30 PM on March 3


Jonah, a person who has/brings bad luck.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:48 PM on March 3


Napoleon.
posted by purpleclover at 4:49 PM on March 3


If a pretty much total loss of specificity of meaning is okay, Guy.

Poindexter is usually a surname, but in the comic strip it gets is adjectival use from, it's the character's whole name.
posted by aubilenon at 4:53 PM on March 3


For those of a certain (my) age: The term Heathers from the movie of the same name, denoting plastic, popular girls. The movie Clueless gave us these nouns: "Betty" for a pretty girl, "Barney" for an ugly guy, and "Baldwin" for a hot guy.
posted by Neeuq Nus at 4:57 PM on March 3


Barney (Fife)
posted by HuronBob at 5:00 PM on March 3


Patient Griselda
posted by brujita at 5:08 PM on March 3


The Benjamin of the family.
posted by Cuke at 5:11 PM on March 3


Miss Ann.
posted by not that girl at 5:13 PM on March 3


Jessie (in Scotland)
posted by girlgenius at 5:31 PM on March 3


Shylock
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:36 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Randy
posted by jamaro at 5:47 PM on March 3


Natasha
posted by rue72 at 5:48 PM on March 3


Cain.
posted by yohko at 5:50 PM on March 3


Lothario.
posted by southern_sky at 6:02 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


A guy friend and I used to have this thing about "Chad"—like "That guy's such a Chad" or even "That guy's name is probably Chad." (And not like a "hanging chad," though it kind of works in the sense that both are kind of useless or even somewhat actively problematic.) Basically it just meant...kind of a generic, possibly slightly douchey or clueless dude, probably with spiked hair, probably wearing Axe body spray.

Apparently we weren't the only ones. Though apparently we were among the first, 'cause we started talking about this back in 2002. There are a lot of Chads in our generation...
posted by limeonaire at 6:03 PM on March 3


Does a name with a qualifier count, or just a single name?

With:
Jim Dandy
Average Joe/Joe Schmoe/Joe Blow
Good time Charlie
Stage door Johnny
Doubting Thomas
Sneaky Pete
Dapper Dan
Nervous Nellie
Mary Sunshine

Without:
James (as in, “Home, James!”)
Melvin
Lulu
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:27 PM on March 3


Silly Billy

Wally

a right Charlie

(offensively and datedly) Joey
posted by Jabberwocky at 6:28 PM on March 3


Trixie
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:34 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Gomer
posted by Jahaza at 6:34 PM on March 3


The first thing that came to mind for me for Joey was that lame kid in Hackers, so it might work without knowing the offensive version of the reference. (And Uncle Joey on Full House was also kind of a goofball...)
posted by limeonaire at 6:35 PM on March 3


Poindexter
posted by Jewel98 at 6:44 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Nigel is a person with no friends (in Australia).
posted by kjs4 at 7:37 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Another is "Sherlock".

These days, "Hannibal" and "Dexter" are getting close to being mythic.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:13 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Sloane
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:03 PM on March 3


In our family, a Zaphod was a guy with his video camera constantly on his shoulder...
posted by runincircles at 10:32 PM on March 3


Your example of Pollyanna comes from Literature. I'd argue that most first names which connote something else are coming from characters in novels, plays or movies. This will vary across culture and time.
Do you want names which meant something in the 19th century but mean little now?
Do you want names that connote something in other countries or, within a small region in the US or part of a dialect?

As an example of the last one, in surfer lingo, "Barney" is someone who doesn't know what they're doing.

Almost all names connote something, in some place, in some time.
posted by vacapinta at 2:40 AM on March 4


Billy No-mates (UK).
Methuselah
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:21 AM on March 4


Biff and Buffy/Muffy
posted by catatethebird at 11:52 AM on March 4


Martha
Goody
Ruth
Cinderella
Frankenstein (although typically used incorrectly, it's treated as a first name so I'd say it counts).
Bambi
Einstein (not a first name, but definitely used to label people).
posted by windykites at 9:07 PM on March 5


Goliath
posted by windykites at 9:07 PM on March 5


A few eponymous literary characters

Cruella

Galahad

Merlin

Camille

Svengali

Tom and Jerry

Candide

Don Juan
posted by nickyskye at 12:01 PM on March 14


A few more eponymous adjectives, myth based

Aphrodite

Hercules

Apollo

Pygmalion

Odysseus

Spartacus

Prometheus

Samson
posted by nickyskye at 12:20 PM on March 14


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