20 Archetypes for People Based on Names
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. Average Joe: the average man from a demographic viewpoint; from the ubiquity of the name Joe
2. Chatty Cathy: an annoyingly verbose woman; coined through alliteration and rhyme
3. Debbie Downer: a naysayer or pessimist; coined by joining an alliterative common name with a descriptive label
4. 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
5. Dumb Dora: a dimwitted or foolish woman, from early-twentieth-century slang; coined by joining an alliterative common name with a descriptive label
6. Gloomy Gus: (see “Debbie Downer”); based on a cartoon character named by joining an alliterative common name with a descriptive label
7. Good-Time Charlie: a hedonist; probably based on a reference in a Damon Runyon story about a speakeasy by that name
8. Handy Andy: a person with useful skills; inspired by rhyming a common name with a descriptive label
9. 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
10. Joe Blow: (see “Average Joe”)
11. Joe Cool: someone who presents a fashionable or unflappable persona; probably originated with the name of an alter ego of the character Snoopy in the Peanuts comic strip
12. Joe Six-Pack (or “Joe Sixpack”): (see “Average Joe,” imagined as a working-class man who enjoys drinking beer, thus the reference to a six-pack)
13. Mary Sue: any main character in a story who is unrealistically capable and flawless; inspired by the name’s all-American, wholesome, winsome associations
14. Merry Andrew: a clownish person; based on an archetypal clown act
15. 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
16. 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
17. plain Jane: a girl or woman of average appearance, or any unprepossessing object; inspired by rhyming a common name with a descriptive label
18. Simple Simon: a gullible, unintelligent person; derived from a folk character
19. Smart Aleck (or “smart alec”): a know-it-all; apparently inspired by a nineteenth-century con man the police called “Smart Alec”
20. Typhoid Mary: a person who spreads disease or another undesirable thing; named after Mary Mallon, an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid
Want to improve your English in 5 minutes a day? Click here to subscribe and start receiving our writing tips and exercises via email every day.
Recommended Articles for You
Subscribe to Receive our Articles and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!