A Few Good Words: Prig

its synonyms and an illustrative painting

Yes, it rhymes with “pig.”

This is what I imagine prigs look like, as if they drank vinegar for breakfast.

Prigs, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary are self-righteously moralistic.


Synonyms are: fuddy-duddy, old maid, spoilsport, stuffed shirt, prude, puritan, bluenose, Mrs. Grundy, moralizer, Goody Two-shoes. These synonyms are more fun than those whom the word prig defines.

Also, a conceited, narrow-minded, dull person. Someone who criticizes the behavior of others. The word dates back to the 16th Century in the form of prigger or prigman. Over the centuries the meaning of the word has changed.

The paining is titled, “American Gothic,” painted by Grant Wood in 1930 and is now at the Art Institute of Chicago. I got the image from the stock agency, Pixabay.

I always thought the painting was of a farmer and his wife, but according to the Art Institute, the woman is the farmer’s daughter. Her priggish expression makes her look as old as he. The painting derives its title from the house, which is in a style called, Carpenter Gothic. Wood deliberately elongated the faces of the models to make the harmonize with the house. The models were Wood’s sister and his dentist. Yikes! I’d never go to a dentist with a face like that.

To learn more about the painting: https://www.artic.edu/artworks/6565/american-gothic

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.

A Few Good Words, 3

Windy words.

Wind blowing hard, like some speakers.

The word bloviate frequently comes to my mind these days. There’s a lot of it going on. The first syllable sounds like what the word means; blow.

A bloviator is a blowhard. Someone who bloviates, speaks in a windy way, using too many words. I’d add that the words a bloviator uses are generally empty. The word bloviate is traced back to U.S. President Warren G. Harding, who used it often. However, in his day the word meant to hang around, to be idle.

Other words with the same meaning are bluster, which means boastful speech or writing. The wind also blusters when it suddenly gusts from mild to strong.

Bombast is a synonym for bloviate, but it’s a noun, instead of a verb. Bombast means pretentious, inflated speech, or writing. It’s not too surprising then that bombast originally meant cotton or other soft fiber used as padding or stuffing.

The bloviator is stuffed with too many words and allows them to spill out on the rest of us. However, “too many words” is a relative concept that depends on context, mood, and how well those words are handled by the speaker or writer. What’s too many for one person, is just right for another.

A Few Good Words, 2

Why did the chicken skedaddle? It was scaddled of the dog.

Roosters have been known to chase people and make them vamoose right out of here.

Absquatulate: I love this word. I first read it in a book by Diana Gabaldon. The word means to run away. It’s a facetious US coinage. No kidding! How could a word like absquatulate be anything but facetious? It dates back to the early Nineteenth Century. The speculation is that it’s meant to be the opposite of the word, “squat,’ which, of course, means to stay. It was first used in an English play to describe a character who was a blustery American. 

Skedaddle: also means to run away. It dates to 1860 and is supposedly Civil War military slang. No one can trace the word’s origins to any language, such as Greek or Latin. It might have evolved from the word, scaddle, which means scared. Makes sense that someone who was scared would skedaddle. 

Vamoose: This one’s easy, it’s derived from the Spanish word vamos or “let’s go,” which in turn originates from the Latin word, vadamus, which also means, “let’s go.” From vadere. “to go, to walk, to go hastily.”

If this guy decides to chase you, you’d better absquatulate, skedaddle, and vamoose.

Why Installments?

A Few Good Words: Lexicon

A synonym for dictionary. A person’s vocabulary or language. A branch of knowledge.

Looks a lot like my big, fat dictionary,

Words are fun. I’ve always enjoyed playing with them and adding them to my vocabulary, often without even giving them a second thought. I collect them through reading. In the old days of paper and ink dictionaries, I’d be looking up a word and get distracted by another word and another, on and on, until I’d forget the one I was originally looking for. Or the definition of the word I was looking for included one I didn’t know, so I’d have to look that one up, too. That was part of the delight of dictionaries.

There are times I’d read dictionaries just because it’s interesting.

We used to have more than half a dozen dictionaries at home. A couple of English dictionaries, hardback and paperback. Latvian dictionaries come in two volumes, English/Latvian and Latvian/English. For school, I had an English/Spanish dictionary. Because my parents knew German and Russian, we had English/German and English/Russian dictionaries in our collection of lexicons.

Online dictionaries are great. I use them all the time, even though I have a fat, heavy real dictionary and intend to keep it forever. If for some reason the internet disappears, I want to be able to look up words.

My favorite dictionary is Merriam-Webster. Their online version has handy tips on how to use a particular word, examples of it in sentences, information on when a word was first known to have been used, its origins, and how it may have changed over the years. Among the other features, M-W also has vocabulary quizzes, trending words, and podcasts. It’s also helpful that you don’t have to know the exact spelling of a word in order to look it up. Get an approximation and Merriam-Webster will give you a list of possible correct spellings and links to the definition.

 Useful as an online dictionary is, you have to know the word in order to look it up. You’ll be shown words with similar meanings, synonyms, and antonyms, but there’s little opportunity to stumble across new ones. Merriam-Webster also has a thesaurus. If you cant’ think of the word hubbub, you can look up “din” and there’s hubbub in the list of synonyms.

Some words just stick in my mind. I’m not sure why some do and many others don’t. Maybe it’s their sound or the context in which I learned them. Ages later, I still remember the word hylozoism (a doctrine held especially by early Greek philosophers that all matter has life) from my Asian Philosophy class.

From a mystery novel, I learned the word crepuscular–an ugly sounding word for a pretty time of day–twilight. It seems more like one of the plagues visited on the Biblical character, Job.

Susurrus is a lovely, onomatopoeic word (a word that sounds like what it defines) Susurrus means, a “whispering or rustling sound.”

One word that sticks in my mind is flivver. Probably because of its fun sound. It means a cheap car, that’s most likely in bad condition. Its first recorded use was in 1910 and might have been used to describe Henry Ford’s, Model T.

There are many more words I’d love to share and will do so in future posts. 

The very definition of “flivver.” The word came to me because of a dream.