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A.Word.A.Day--prufrockian

Fact and fiction often feed on each other. And it's reflected in the names: a fictional character would be named to reflect his or her qualities. In turn, these characters often come alive in our imagination and we begin to use them to refer to real people.

While eponyms -- words derived from people's names -- can be from real people as well as from fictional characters, all of this week's eponymy features fictional sources.

The five characters we present include the hero of a poem, the subject of a book dedication, a character in a comic strip, the hero of an operetta, and a character in an animated series. It's quite a cast across a wide genre. Let the parade begin.

Prufrockian (pru-FROK-i-uhn) adjective

Marked by timidity and indecisiveness, and beset by unfulfilled aspirations.

[After the title character in T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".]

Prufrock, the aging hero of Eliot's 1915 poem, is haunted by his cautious, hesitant approach to life and his conforming existence, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

He wonders about the possible romances he didn't dare broach, "Do I dare disturb the universe?"

If only he knew Tennyson's 1850 lines: "'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."

Listen to Eliot read his poem aloud: http://salon.com/audio/2000/10/05/eliot/

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

"Striking the Prufrockian pose, [character Ben Sippy] worries about his decaying body, the romances he passed up as a youth, the timidities of his life." David Brooks; Books; The Wall Street Journal (New York); Oct 6, 1988.

X-Bonus

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)

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