I went to see the movie Ant Man on Saturday. I did enjoy the movie, however, afterwards I started to think too much about it and my inner geek took over. Ant Man automatically conjures up the image of a super hero. Iron Man, Super Man, Spider Man are all examples of how our culture accepts the idea that putting a word in front of ‘Man’ creates a super hero image. _____ Man is a formula that creates a hero image in our brains. It’s a cultural thing. But this doesn’t work in all cases. It is not a magical formula. English is a fascinating language.
Take the word Cowboy. Cowboys are really masculine figures, rough and tumble men who break horses and herd cattle. They are armed with six shooters and routinely fight for justice. But change the word slightly and you have Cow Boy. Sounds like it could be Cow Man’s side kick. What super power would Cow Man have? It’s udderly ridicules.
Other ______ Man heroes are equally inappropriate. Door man refers to a gentleman who welcomes people to a hotel or such, not a super hero who uses a door as a shield. Same with Garbage Man and Repair man, though I do like the image of what they would be as super heroes. Update: Garbage Man was a Mutant in the DC comics. (It’s still a stupid name)
What about Paper boy? Paper Man doesn’t have the same ring. Or Bag boy? Bag Man is an entirely different occupation and not really applicable to the hero trade.
Animals are often placed in front of the name to barrow from the animals intrinsic qualities. Wolfman, Batman, and other heroes sound pretty cool. However, other equally fierce animals sound kind of dumb. Lion Man, Tiger Man, and Bear Man, sounds a little silly. Not to mention even more silly names that strikes my funny bone, like Giraffe Man, Shrew Man, and my personal favourite Sloth Man. They sound like examples of what would happen if the Monty Python crew owned Marvel.
Captain is a prefix given to denote super heroes like Captain America. I often wonder why these heroes are always passed up for promotion. Major America doesn’t sound as bad ass, but would get paid more. Lieutenant Colonel is two ranks higher than captain, but sounds even sillier.
I just think that it is interesting how an arrangement of words can elicit different emotional responses while describing heroes.