"hector " as a verb

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Jun 25 22:51:57 UTC 1999

     In reply to Jesse Sheidlower's query about the verb "hector," here is
what Eric Partridge  says (_Name Into Word_, 1970 reprint of 2nd edition,

     "HECTOR---...A hector is a bully, a blusterer, to hector is to bully
to browbeat, to bluster: and formerly at least the noun was spelt with a
capital initial, in deference to the unwitting originator, Hector, who, the
son of Priam and Hecuba, was the Trojan hero of Homer's _Iliad_, where he
is represented as the leader of the forces besieged in Troy and as being
killed by Achilles.  In Homer, Hector is not a bullying braggart, and in
English literature of the 14th-early 17th Centuries, his name stands for 'a
gallant warrior':  the derogatory conception of his charater dates from the
latter 17th Century, when the Hectors, a gang of disorderly young fellows
that fancied themselves as very Hectors, disturbed the streets of London
with their hooliganism;  popular drama took up this topical cue. ..."

 ----Gerald Cohen

>A correspondent has written to question the use of _hector_
>as a verb meaning 'to bully or bluster', or as an equivalent
>In the _Iliad,_ Hector is portrayed quite favorably,
>especially in comparison with the Greek heroes. He is brave,
>a devoted family man--there's the famous scene with his wife
>and the child frightened by his helmet. I've recently gone
>through it again and there is an obscure scene late in the
>poem where one of Hector's subordinates recommends a strategic
>retreat and he rather forcefully tells him no; as it turns
>out the subordinate was right. But still, overally, Hector
>does not seem to be a bullying sort of guy.
>Of the dictionaries WNW claims that this use is after
>portrayals of Hector as a bully in early drama, but even if
>true what is the origin of that portrayal? No other
>dictionaries I've checked explain it.
>Thanks for any ideas,
>Jesse Sheidlower
><jester at panix.com>

gcohen at umr.edu

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