Ham Actor

   The origin of this derisory term has not been satisfactorily established. In fact, so many paths have been suggested to this word's provenance that it is burdensome to follow them all. Perhaps the best lead is found in the advice Hamlet offers to actors—not to "saw the air too much with your hand" and not "to strut and bellow." Sounds familiar? Ham actors are known to overact and to strive mightily to call attention to themselves. And so it might be that from Hamlet, Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, comes the solution: The advice given by Hamlet plus the first syllable of his name may have combined to produce the appellation ham actor. Farfetched, but worth considering.
   Another possible derivation is from the practice, in the nineteenth century, of using ham fat to remove theatrical makeup. The actor was called a hamfatter, and the appellation became the title, during the heyday of minstrels, of a Negro minstrel song, "The Ham-Fat Man." The Midwest has its candidate, Hamish McCullough (1835-1885), who toured with his own troupe of players regularly in Midwestern States. Hamish's company was called "Harn's actors" (Ham was Mc- Cullough's nickname), and the acting of his players was reported to deserve that questionable commendation.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ham actor — {n. phr.}, {slang} An untalented actor; someone who tries so hard to act that his performance becomes foolishly exaggerated. * /Fred is a ham actor who, instead of memorizing his lines, keeps moving around in a ridiculous way./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • ham\ actor — n. phr. slang An untalented actor; someone who tries so hard to act that his performance becomes foolishly exaggerated. Fred is a ham actor who, instead of memorizing his lines, keeps moving around in a ridiculous way …   Словарь американских идиом

  • ham actor — noun an unskilled actor who overacts • Syn: ↑ham • Derivationally related forms: ↑hammy (for: ↑ham), ↑ham (for: ↑ham) …   Useful english dictionary

  • ham actor — n. amateur actor who overacts …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Ham — (h[a^]m), n. 1. [Short for {hamfatter}.] a person who performs in a showy or exaggerated style; used especially of actors. Also used attributively, as, a ham actor. [PJC] 2. The licensed operator of an amateur radio station. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ham — I. /hæm / (say ham) noun 1. one of the rear quarters of a pig, especially the heavy muscled part, between hip and hock. 2. the meat of this part. 3. the part of the leg behind the knee. 4. (often plural) the back of the thigh or the thigh and the …   Australian English dictionary

  • ham — I (New American Roget s College Thesaurus) n., slang, hambone, ham actor, show off, grandstand player. v., slang, ham it up, overact, emote, chew the scenery, pull out all the stops. See drama. II (Roget s IV) n. 1. [Smoked pork thigh] Syn.… …   English dictionary for students

  • ham — I UK [hæm] / US noun Word forms ham : singular ham plural hams * 1) a) [uncountable] the meat from the top part of the back legs of a pig, preserved using salt or smoke a ham sandwich a slice of ham b) [countable] a large piece of ham 2)… …   English dictionary

  • ham — ham1 [ hæm ] noun * 1. ) uncount the meat from the top part of the back legs of a pig, preserved using salt or smoke: a slice of ham a ham sandwich a ) count a large piece of ham 2. ) count a bad actor who has an artificial style of performing:… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • ham — Synonyms and related words: ARRL, acting, actor proof, all star, amateur radio operator, ankle, bacon, ballet, balletic, bayonet legs, be theatrical, bowlegs, buffoonery, business, butt, calf, characterization, chitterlings, cinematic,… …   Moby Thesaurus

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