[Ads-l] damsel

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 31 13:40:47 EDT 2016

A line from the latest episode of the HBO series "Westworld": "I imagined a
story where I didn’t have to be the damsel."

Without giving any plot points away, it's clear that the character uses
"damsel" as shorthand for "damsel in distress."

OED doesn't have "damsel in distress" yet, though citations for other
headwords already include examples back to 1748. Here are the earliest I've

Richard Ames, "Sylvia's complaint of her sexes unhappiness" (1692), p. 12
The Damsel in distress must still remain,
Tortur'd and wrack'd with the tormenting Pain.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, transl. by Capt. John Stevens
"The history of the most ingenious knight Don Quixote de la Mancha" (1706),
Vol. 1, p. 81
[T]hinking this a fit opportunity to make use of his Knighthood for
relieving a Damsel in Distress, laying hold on the Pommel of his Sword, he
cry'd out with a loud and intelligible Voice.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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