The seven deadly dwarves

A Facebook friend posted a cartoon by Dan Piraro (for technical reasons I can’t add it here) showing Snow White saying to four dwarves, “Guess what, guys! Your cousins, Angry, Lazy, Greedy, Hungry, Vanity, Envy, & Frisky are coming to visit!”, with the caption Snow White & the Seven Deadly Sins.  

The seven deadly sins are usually listed as pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. But those don’t make funny dwarves’ names and don’t sound anything like Disney’s dwarves Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy and Dopey. Six of those are adjectives (the exception being Doc) and five of those end with -y (the exception being Bashful). Obviously, -y and -ful are common adjective endings. 

The adjectives directly linked to the sins are proud, greedy, wrathful, envious, lustful, gluttonous and slothful (more -y and -ful, and also -ous) (note that the vowel change behind pride > proud is no longer productive – we can’t make new adjectives that way now). But those don’t make funny dwarves’ names, either, so proud becomes Vanity (a noun, compare vain), wrathful becomes Angry (compare anger), lustful becomes Frisky (compare friskiness) and gluttonous becomes Hungry (compare hunger), while envious becomes Envy (a noun) and greedy remains Greedy.

(I would question how equivalent some of those changes really are. Hunger is a not a sin, while friskiness is first “playful and full of energy” and only later (sometimes) sexual. Mutually consenting sexual playfulness with one’s partner is usually not a sin.)

Most real names based on personal characteristics are nouns: I can immediately think of Joy, Faith, Hope, Charity, Chastity, Mercy, I once knew a Clemency, and the fictional Temperance. From other languages we have taken Mercedes (compare Mercy) and Dolores (no English equivalent). These are all female names. For males, I can only think of the adjective Clement (compare Clemency) and the fictional noun Endeavour. (I’ll ignore Randy, which has the potential for misunderstanding between different English speaking countries.) Many other names have personal characteristics hiding behind their meanings: Ruth means pity, but ruth is now only found in the negative form ruthless, and David means beloved

(The seven deadly sins are a lot better known than the seven heavenly virtues.)


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