i came across the indigenous "ham" in an article which was provided to describe an actor. Ns referred the dictionary. However I to be unclear that the fact that how can it be supplied to describe an actor?



ham actor. Origin

an unskilled actor that overactsa theatrical performer

ham acting

when a human overacts immensely. That is generally an ext accepted in the theatre however criticised in film and tv. Can additionally describe a human being who is being fake. Also called "hamming it"

The word Ham to mean an "overacting inferior performer," apparently dates from about 1882 and also orignates from American sdrta.net. Initially the word was hamfatter, an interpretation "actor of low grade," and has been linked to an old minstrel display song, "The Ham-fat Man" which days from about 1863.



Following up on the earlier answers by Ilythya and also john crow, ns did part research right into the theories the ham (in the actorly sense) derives native ham fat or indigenous hamfatter (or indigenous both).

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Ham fat or ‘The Ham-fat Man’?

John Ayto, Word Origins, second edition (2005) contains this comment in that entry because that ham:

Ham in the sense "performer that overacts", very first recorded in the so late 19th century, apparently originates from an earlier hamfatter "bad actor", i beg your pardon may have actually been influenced by the black minstrel song "The Ham-fat Man".

This bolsters Ilythya’s answer; however john crow’s answer finds support, too, in martin Harrison, The Language the Theatre (1993):

The many plausible derivation, v a much more detailed and credible raw story, is that in C19, prior to the innovation of Leichner make-up, powder make-ups were combined with some kind of grease or oil prior to application. Amateurs, or actors on a low income—that is, those who had tendency to be inferior—were required to employ cheaper building material (rather 보다 the professionals’ sophisticated oils) to apply their make-up, for this reason the nicknames ham-bone and ham-fat(ter) indigenous the reality that they provided ham-rind and also other unpleasant greases together a medium. Ham-fatter may come directly from a negro minstrel song, ‘The Hamfat Man’.

Michael Macrone, Animalogies (1995) brings the “ham grease” and also “Hamfat Man” theories together in a somewhat different method from Harrison :

The location <“The Hamfat Man”> describes the minstrels" usage of hog grease to clean the black off their faces. It"s very likely that the tune influenced the phrase ham actor or ham for short, although together epithets as hamfat man or hamfat actor might predate it. In any kind of case "ham" showed up on its very own by 1882, as soon as someone referred to himself, in a letter come in a letter to Illustrated Sports and Drama News, as "no ham, but a classic banjo player."

So one resource says that ham fat was used to blend with powder make-up before application, and also another that ham fat was supplied to eliminate blackface assembly (presumably burned cork) after application.

Earliest occurrence of ‘Hamfatter’

According come Iris Blake, “Burlesque: Music, Minstrelsy, and Mimetic Resistance” (2013), “The Ham Fat Man” to be an 1863 minstrel track show, which additionally (she says) is the very first song to include the indigenous “hootchy cootchy,” albeit in a primitive phonetic spelling. The chorus the the song:

Ham fat, ham fat, zigga zolla zan,

Ham fat, ham fat, Tickle olla tan;

oh! Walk into de kitchen, as quick as friend can,

Hoochee Koochee Koochee, claims the Hamfat Man

Early an alert of the hatchet hamfatter appears in john Farmer, Americanisms Old and New (1889), wherein the term doesn’t describe performers of any type of kind:

HAMFATTER. —A recent name in some quarters of brand-new York, because that a second-rate dude or masher, and more especially used to the habitués the the Rialto in that city.

ok warrant the these ladies who complain have, if the reality were known, strolled up and down Broadway through the 5th Avenue Hotel and the Hoffman, and were they therefore fortunate regarding receive an admiring glance from the well-dressed and much more prosperous expert brother that the HAMFATTER, they were no offended, forsooth. —New York Herald, July 29, 1888.

Another resource indicates that in brand-new York City the term hamfatter was used colloquially come non-actors through 1879. Native George Sala, “All the fun of the Fair,” (December 3, 1879), in America Revisited, sixth edition (1886):

Every American who does no wish come be assumed “small potatoes” or a “ham-fatter” or a “corner loafer,” is very closely “barbed” and also fixed up in a hair-dressing saloon every day.

However, in “Spangles and also Sawdust,” in the Nashville Union and also American (November 6, 1879), a “flying trapeze” artist tells the reporter the the term refers to second-rate performers in his profession:

”This is the an initial show I ever left in this way. I traveled v Forepaugh’s establishment four seasons, and never had any type of trouble. I’ve been through this show since the 12th the June last, having joined it in ~ Clinton, Iowa. As soon as DeHaven propose this concert business, ns told him i was no ham-fatter, and—“


“Yes, ham-fatter. That’s the surname we offer a man in ours profession who is a poor performer. I’ve remained in the business since I was ten years old, and I’m a small over twenty-five now.”

It’s daunting to think that a form of entertainment whereby the idea of using ham fat before a show seems less suitable than in a trapeze act—but that factor to consider evidently didn’t protect against the minstrelsy term hamfatter from coming to be circus slang, too.

The very first instance that a performer specifically advocated as a “ham-fatter” shows up in an ad for the Vaudeville Theatre in the San Antonio Light (April 8, 1884):

Then come the listed ham-fatter, CHARLIE FRYE. “If you deserve to guess what the is doing you can have it.”

The same ad mentions that Frye will certainly participate later on in the present as a character in “The exceedingly laughable Ethiopian interlude, entitled, Nitro-Glycerine!” which is evidently one of the high points of the evening.

Other offers of ham fat in renowned entertainment

From Rosemarie Ostler, Let’s talk Turkey: The stories Behind America’ favorite Expressions (2008):

According to tradition, ham fat was component of the equipment of old jazz musicians. A 1966 New Yorker item on Louisiana music alludes to this claim: “Most the the musicians playing in these clubs room old men…. Lock hamfat musicians. In the old days, the turbulent musicians maintained pieces of ham fat in your pockets come grease the slides of your trombones.” By the moment Sala supplied the native in his publication , the had come to be synonymous v a third-rate show or various other low-class person.


I to be surprised the multiple sources endorsed the theory that ham fat as preparation for makeup (or together a post-performance cleanser of makeup) inspired the minstrelsy track “the Ham Fat Man.” An alternate theory could be the “Ham Fat Man” was just a share minstrelsy name—like Tambo, Jim Crow, and also Mr. Bones—that had no reference to practical uses the ham fat ~ above the stage.

In any kind of event, the argument that “ham actor” is acquired from hamfatter seems rather strong, also though the hatchet hamfatter was likewise used in link with forms of entertain besides stage acting, and indeed to be sometimes applied to world who were not entertainers in ~ all.

Ham or ham actor.

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one amateur or expert actor who is affected, self-indulgent, or conceited, and who often tends to effort for fist over the other actors ~ above the phase by overplaying. A number of theories to the beginning of this unflattering epithet have actually been posed. 2 possibilities involve the procedure of Tony Pastor, the beforehand vaudeville manager. He had actually an act in his downtown establishment referred to as "The Hamtown Students," a black-face quartet well-known for your exaggerated movements and the overblown nature of your act. Supposedly, at any time Pastor witnessed an actor that was overplaying he defined him together a "ham." rather apparently offered the full name, "Hamtown student." one more theory is that a poster at Pastor"s Opera house in brand-new York announced "sixty hams distributed on Monday evening." This providing of free hams, follow to the theory, began to reflect poorly top top the actors until they were known as "ham actors." H.L. Mencken argued that it come from Hamlet, because all gibbs either asserted to have actually played Hamlet to good applause—or wished to play Hamlet. He further pointed out that an old name for one amateur to be hambone. It has been claimed that the hatchet actually came from a name linked with Hamish McCullough (1835–1885), who toured the "pig-sticking" towns of Illinois through a fit-up or portable company. His nickname was Ham and also his troupe was referred to as Ham"s actors. The most judicious origin is that the word is brief for hamfatter, the emollient or lard obtained from pork and also ham offered by old-time actor and also minstrel males to eliminate their makeup. It was common prior to the advent of cold cream and later, when col cream was available, was simply as effective and also cheaper.