Tuesday 28 June 2011


Ophelimity is the capacity to satisfy a need, desire or want. It's an economics term, but I can think of at least a thousand non-economic situations in which it could usefully be used, and not all of them are obscene.

It comes ultimately from the Greek ophelimos, which meant useful, and is therefore vaguely related to Ophelia, which meant help. Nobody is sure why Shakespeare decided to name Hamlet's bit of fluff Ophelia, but the best guess is that he simply made a mistake. There's a Ben Jonson play in which there's a nymph called Apheleia.

The fourth, in white, is Apheleia, a nymph as pure and simple as the soul, or as an abrase table, and is therefore called Simplicity.

As Ophelia in Hamlet is a simple, innocent nymph, this makes a Lot More Sense. And as Shakespeare was a good friend of Jonson's, and was even godfather to Jonson's son, there could well be a connection, even though Jonson's play came after Hamlet. The explanation has ophelimity.

Here is Ophelia's lack of ophelimity illustrated:

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