Otherworldly Words: Harpy


Harpies in the infernal wood, from Inferno XIII, by Gustave Doré, 1861

Harpies in the infernal wood, from Inferno XIII, by Gustave Doré, 1861

I’m continuing to look at words that cast women in a less than flattering light.

The next word on my list is harpy. In Greek mythology, the harpy was a ravenous, vicious creature with a bird’s body and a woman’s head. Or, as some would have you believe, the definition of a woman, as the term has come to mean a “scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman.” Yet another word dedicated to only women that describes unfavorable temper

ament or personality traits.

Can you think of a similar word for a man?

While I would have guessed that “to harp on” something derives from this meaning, my research did not indicate this to be true. It’s more akin to playing the harp.

All of the words I’ve looked at this month have two things in common: they come from mythology and refer to women. It leads one to wonder if the people making up the stories about evil creatures weren’t a bit biased?

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