Where does the term “Hamfatter” come from and What does Hamfatter mean?

Hamfatter is theatrical slang, of course, now often abridged to ham or altered to ham actor.

Whatever you wish to use, it is applied somewhat contemptuously to an actor or actress who may wish ardently to succeed on the stage, but who just can’t act.

A writer in Century Magazine in 1882 said the term came from an old Negro song, “The Hamfat Man,” but H. L. Mencken, in Supplement II of his The American Language, says that among theatrical people the preferred belief is that the term first denoted those actors who, probably from the cost of cold cream, used ham fat instead to remove grease paint.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

Leave a Comment