A Few Good Words: 4

Oscar the Crosspatch

A real grouch, but not Oscar. I didn’t use a picture of the little blue Muppet because no doubt he’s a trademarked character.

As I write about words, I’m leaning, too, and having fun.

I like the word crosspatch. It means a peevish, grouchy person. A whiner. A bellyacher. A grumbler. A sourpuss. The word crosspatch dates back to the 1700s.

Cross, used as an adjective means bad-tempered, angry, annoyed. I did not know that “patch,” once meant a fool or a professional jester. Maybe that explains the name of a local children’s show host–J.P. Patches, who had a red nose and a white-painted face. Did the actor who created J.P know the anachronistic name for a clown? Or maybe the character’s name derived front the patched clothes he wore.

What a sourpuss looks like. “What do you mean, you forgot to buy cat food?”

These days many of us associate the word “sourpuss” with the media star Grumpy Cat, a feline with a peevish expression on his face. But “puss” doesn’t just mean a cat. It also means the human face. Needless to say, it’s not a flattering description. Puss in this sense is more likely to be used in a sneering way: “I’m gonna wipe that smirk off your puss.” A threat to punch someone in the face.

The year 2020 has made us feel like crosspatches and sourpusses.

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