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Originally, it was the name of a character in a 16th-century English comedy. Since then it has come to denote "that which is genuine." What hyphenated phrase is it?

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Answer: simon-pure

The original Simon Pure was a character in the comedy A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1717) by Susannah Centlivre.

If anyone has any idea why the name came to denote "genuineness," please let me know.


According to mirriam-webster online dictionary

A character in the play impersonated a Quaker preacher named Simon Pure. Unfortunately for him, the real Simon Pure appeared and proves himself to be the genuine article. The phrase was then adopted as slang for genuineness.

The dictionaries also give a secondary definition as:"pretentiously or hypocritically pure"(Mirriam Webster) "Superficially or hypocritically virtuous." (American Heritage) Presumably this definition refers to the imposter and the pretense needed for his ruse.
mpecho at

From the web:

British dramatist and actress Susannah Centlivre (1669-1723) introduced the character of Simon Pure in her 1718 comedy A Bold Stroke for a Wife.

In that play, Colonel Fainall wants to marry Anne Lovely, but to do so he must win the consent of Anne's guardian, a Quaker gentleman named Obadiah Prim.

Fainall tries to gain the needed approval by impersonating a Quaker preacher named Simon Pure.

Unfortunately for the scheme, the real Simon Pure appears and proves himself to be the genuine article.

People adopted the phrase the real Simon Pure (which in turn gave rise to the adjective simon-pure) from the play to refer to things true or genuine.

This is all I was able to dig up:

simon-pure (adj.) 1815, from the true Simon Pure "the genuine person or thing" (1795), from Simon Pure, name of a Quaker who is impersonated by another character (Colonel Feignwell) in part of the comedy A Bold Stroke for a Wife (1717) by Susannah Centlivre, English dramatist and actress. The real Simon Pure is dealt with as an imposter and is believed only after he has proved his identity.
reagan at

The manuscript of the play is the obvious place to start your search for the answer.

The names of any number of literary characters (e.g., Scrooge, Falstaff, Milquetoast) now serve to denote characteristics notable in their roles on the page.

The very word characteristics may well have come into being to describe this long-common phenomenon.
assign++ at

My recollection is that the character Simon Pure was a Quaker preacher who had to prove his identity when someone else tried to impersonate him.

Hence, he established himself as the real Simon Pure, or the genuine article.

As far as I know, the "pure" has nothing to do with purity in today's meaning (although I'm sure it did in the original play).
william.dunlap at

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