Can a proper noun function as a possessive adjective? Can the names of specific people act as adjectives?

1 Answer
May 13, 2016

Bette Davis Eyes


Many people have legendary qualities that can be used in an adjective-y manner: A Marilyn Monroe walk, a Groucho strut, a Vincent Price vibe, etc.

Promiscuous men are often described as Casanovas, Valentinos or Don Juans. What would a James Dean jacket look like, or a Fonzarelli motorcycle jacket? Marginally attractive women with a provocative manner can be called Mae West-ian.

Archaic English speech can be described as Elizabethan, Shakespearian or Victorian. Lovable street urchins can be described as Dickensian (London) or Damon Runyonesque (New York). Situations that inspire dread and the fear of an intractible bureaucracy are Kafkaesque, while pure horror has been called Lovecraftian. And some social satires have been described as Rabelaisan.

For fictional proper nouns: Black men of a non-confrontational manner have (somewhat unfairly, I think) been labeled "Uncle Toms." And overly-aggressive seducers have been called "Lothario" or "Pepe Le Pew." Men who are conscientious to a fault are sometimes called "Dudley Do-rights" and extremely brainy fellows (or ironically stupid ones) are "Sherlock."

The Bible is another source of archetypal personalities. Some women have been described as "daughter of Eve" or "Jezebel." Elderly men have been called "Methuselah," and untrustworty men have been called "Judas." Although "Nimrod" was a mighty hunter, the name has been co-opted for computer nerds. A big fella might be known as "Goliath," and a flint-hearted temptress, as "Delilah."