15 Mar

mountebank – a person who deceives others in order to trick them out of their money, or a person who sells quack medicine

Classical Usuage:  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Classic Word of the Day meets Stupid Questions. I am completely confused about Hawthorne’s usage of the word.

Here’s the context.  Hester, Pearl and all of the Guys are at Governor Bellingham’s discussing whether or not Hester should be allowed to keep Pearl.  Dimmesdale gives a powerful, yet tremulous speech defending her right to keep the child since she was first given to her mother by God, both as a blessing and as a sting of ever-recurring agony, hence Pearl’s scarlet dress.

Mr. Wilson chimes in, “Well said, again! . . . I feared the woman had no better thought than to make a moutebank of her child!”  Dimmesdale replies that that is not the case, but that Hester recognizes the miracle which God hath wrought in the existence of her daughter.

Does he mean that Hester was going to use Pearl to get more money for things, or sympathy, or what?  I’m stuck.

Classically Mad Usage:  Well, until I find out what, if anything, Hawthorne meant by the word, then I suppose I can use it in any old way I like.  It can be my go-to fill-in-the-blank word, try “Hey, could you hand me that, um, mountebank?” or “I heard the most interesting story on NPR, it was about this, ah – mountebank that . . .” or “I had a great idea for a blog post, I was going to write about, well, uh, mountebanks.”


Posted by on March 15, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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2 responses to “Huh?

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