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A. Rickey

FWIW, the OED gives uses of the word "hare-brain" back to 1550. However, it seems to imply that the term doesn't mean "dumb" so much as giddy or reckless.

It doesn't give an entry for "hair-brained." My guess is that it's a poetic attempt to make the woman sound dumb as opposed to reckless. But that's a guess.


'Hare' and 'Hair' both refer to the rabbit in this case.

from dictionary.com:

Foolish; flighty: a harebrained scheme.

Usage Note: The first use of harebrained dates to 1548. The spelling hairbrained also has a long history, going back to the 1500s when hair was a variant spelling of hare. The hair variant was preserved in Scotland into the 18th century, and as a result it is impossible to tell exactly when people began writing hairbrained in the belief that the word means “having a hair-sized brain” rather than “with no more sense than a hare.” While hairbrained continues to be used and confused, it should be avoided in favor of harebrained which has been established as the correct spelling.


The thing about Moll Flanders is, the main character displays absolutely no conscience, so it's very tough to get a bead on her motivations. But a good read. I admire her utter pragmatism.

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