- The eponym Bluebeard, a noun meaning "a man who successively marries and murders several wives" is the main character in Charles Perrault's story Barbe Bleue, published in Contes du Temps (1697). The adjective bluebeard means "not to enter or be explored," as in the bluebeard room in the house. The character Bluebeard was a murderous tyrant, a habitual wifekiller. Today he might be called a serial wifekiller. Fatima, a pretty young woman, married the sinister Bluebeard against her brothers' wishes. Before leaving on a business trip, Bluebeard gave his new wife the keys to his castle, but forbade her to open a certain door. Curiosity got the best of her, and she disobeyed her husband's warning. There she found the bodies of Bluebeard's six former wives hung up like beef. On Bluebeard's return, he spotted a drop of blood on one of the keys, which told him of his wife's disobedience. Bluebeard was preparing to make Fatima number seven when her brothers rushed in and bestowed on Bluebeard the fate he had intended for their sister. In Brittany, a real-life Bluebeard, French General Gilles de Retz, the Marquis de Laval, was burned at the stake for his crimes in 1440. This sadistic creature murdered six of his seven wives, but whether de Retz was the historical source for Perrault's Bluebeard has never been attested. Perrault's Contes du Temps contains "Sleeping Beauty," "Red Riding Hood," "Puss in Boots," and other famous fairy tales collected from various sources.The expression bluestocking took root in the mid-eighteenth century after a botanist and sometime poet, Benjamin Stillingfleet, wore blue silk stockings when attending a gathering of women who had decided to forgo card playing for literary pursuits and invite learned such as Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, and David Garrick to lecture before them. The usual stockings worn by men to such an affair — in fact it was de rigueur to wear them — were black. Stillingfleet had no black silk stockings. He was told to come anyway, and he wore blue stockings. The stockings have bestowed on members of this coterie the sobriquet "Bluestocking Society." It was, of course, a derisive expression because for women to acquire learning was regarded as ungraceful.Today a bluestocking is, to borrow a statement from Rousseau, "a woman who will remain a spinster as long as there are sensible men on earth." Rousseau, of course, had never heard of the feminist movement or the attraction of sensible men to erudite women.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.