Classical poets like Homer referred to cow-eyed Hera, faithful Achates, pious Aeneas, rosy-fingered dawn, swift-footed Achilles, the wine-dark sea, all-powerful Kronos (Time), wind-footed Iris (the rainbow). Apollo (the sun-god) was known as “destroyer of mice”. Do "Homeric epithets" still exist? Who are the Dynamic Duo, the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader? The Iron Lady, Il Duce, the Bard, the Fab Four, the Swan of Avon? (Wikipedia says this is antonomasia.)
If you're looking for a role in life, this list may give you some ideas.
“[Mr Quayle was] train-bearer and organ-blower to a whole procession of people.” (Charles Dickens, Bleak House Mr Quayle’s friends are all do-gooders, and this is his role. (Heroine Esther realised that “it was Mr. Quayle's mission to be in ecstasies with everybody else's mission and that it was the most popular mission of all”.)
“Offcuts of the New Left who originally met up at the Partisan Coffee House, but were in reality, rather than political activists or academic theorists, more the hefty drinkers, convivialists, half-forgotten artists and writers, or never to be known thinkers, working their way looking forward but stepping backwards to oblivion... ageing into a repetitive narrative and early death... a merry-go-round of ageing drunks with and without a ruined talent.” (Novelist Jenny Diski on the 60s denizens of Fitzrovia)
Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Eddie Fisher "dwindled into being her factotum, flourishing the onyx cigarette lighter, whistling for the limo".
There were a fair number of failure models on view: the drunk, the incompetent, the placemen and the pompous. (Julian Barnes Guardian July 2013)
ageing enfant terrible
back-seat driver (micro-manager)
bellowing know-nothings (Owen Hatherley on planners who raze all 60s buildings)
co-op types (The entire class was full of co-op types, vegetarians in overalls and tie-dyed T-shirts. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot)
dragon-botherers (Matthew Sweet on hobbits and dwarves)
empty suits in seats of power (@davidhuyssen)
fading matinee idol
fang bangers (fans of Twilight, True Blood etc)
intellectual yet idiot (All the right/left’s intellectuals are IYIs, depending on which side you are on.)
man of mystery
Mansplainer, whitesplainer, pagansplainer, instant expert who has been to one workshop
my pet failure
nicknacketerian (collector or trader of bric-a-brac)
partner in crime
reality nobodies (Richie Brown/@whiffytidings)
shadow spokesthing (David Aaronovitch)
Sieg-heiling tossweebles (@Gaipajama on UKIP)
stragglers (from a previous decade or the one before that)
taxi-to-table breed (in New York) (Times Sept 2015 on women who ostentatiously don’t wear tights – with their high heels - in winter.)
the crunchy-granola set (jezebel.com)
the poor-little-me type (Agatha Christie. She points out that you can play this role even when medium-sized.)
What happened to “rock liggers”? They were people who turned up to press events for the free food and drink, or to mingle with people on the scene, without actually playing in a band or even being a driver or roadie or PR person or stylist or...
More here, and links to the rest.