Monday, April 9, 2012


my A to Z - every day of the challenge I will find a word by flinging my finger into my American Heritage Dictionary and then riff on it. The posts may be essays or poems or stories or memories. Who knows what will happen when we give Serendipity her wanton way?

Oh - I had a little lurch when my finger fell on this word. How can I write about humour? I think I can be funny but to riff on this word is different.  Then I realize I can choose one of the other meanings - I choose the 3rd. -
In medieval phsyiology, one of the four fluids of the body, blood, phlegm, choler, and black bile, the dominance of which was thought to determine a person's character and general health.
Now for those of you not of a medieval mind let me ramble on - because I loved medieval philosophy and stories - The Green Knight - etc... I know what the 'humours' are.  You might too if I remind you and here is the handy dandy chart from Wikipedia to do just that:

HumourSeasonElementOrganQualitiesAncient nameModernMBTIAncient characteristics
Bloodspringairliverwarm & moistsanguineartisanSPcourageous, hopeful, amorous, don't finish what they start, flighty
Yellow bilesummerfirespleenwarm & drycholericidealistNFeasily angered, bad tempered, crystal clear about boundaries, hold tight to values and visions
Black bileautumnearthgall bladdercold & drymelancholicguardianSJdespondent, sleepless, irritable, sensitive to others, fiercely loyal to pals, protective
Phlegmwinterwaterbrain/lungscold & moistphlegmaticrationalNTcalm, unemotional, stolid by times, can be coldly furious the fairness of full-disclosure - I am as you read this winging my way with five pals to Naples, Florida for a MUCH needed break. I'm going to tell you which of these I think I am and why and give a try for my pals.  I think I'm on the sanguine/choleric borderline.
I believe the other five will be thus - (names changed to protect the not so innocent)
Bird-Woman - runs the line between Choleric and Phlegmatic (making her an ideal pal for me!)
The Questioner is mostly choleric (especially the good bits of that humour) with just a touch sanguine.
Harvest Woman is very sanguine with the smallest splash of melancholic.
The Villager is highly Choleric but believes she is Phlegmatic! Okay, she is somewhat phlegmatic too.
The Uber-Ma is mostly phlegmatic with a measure of melancholic.

You can look at this way of identifying types as a way to start with your characters if you like. My protagonist in True is Phlegmatic and invited into Sanguine.
How about you?


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What an absolutely fascinating way to look at characters! This is great! Thank you. I've got a phlegmatic protagonist too, with just occasional dips into black bile. I'm going to have to think about him from this perspective more as I think it's really helpful.

Sharkbytes said...

Hmmm- I guess I'm bloody phlegm. Not such an attractive image there! I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs this month.

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, that is truly an amazing chart. I'll have to go over my characters and see how they fit in this chart.

Liz said...

Good idea, as many ways as possible to get inside your character!

Funnily enough, I did my thesis for an MA on humour - there are many different types, about 13 i think, and by the age of 3 most children recognise 9 of them. How cool is that! We were born to laugh!

If you are interested, I'm leaving you my A-Z link as blogger always identifies me as my shared blog with other poets - my A-Z is this one:

nutschell said...

Fascinating! I think my character is a bit of a "Black Bile"

Great A-Z post!

Patricia Stoltey said...

We may have picked the same word, but we sure approached it differently.