Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

More kids

More kids

Last week’s post on synonyms for child was just a start. Here are some more ways we might refer to young folk.

In 1793 the word toddler came to English. Its source was the English verb toddle, which showed up in 1600. Toddle may have come from totter, or from another English verb from the 1500s meaning to toy or play.

Lass came to English in 1300 from a Scandinavian source, though etymologists can’t decide which one. Some suggest the source was an Old Swedish word meaning unmarried woman, some posit lass came from a West Frisian source meaning light & thin, and some suggest a Norse source for lass – a word meaning idle & weak. Though I hold nothing against the Norse, it would be nice to hear some future word historians disprove that possibility.

Though many of us might assume the English word lad had its source in the Scottish words lad & laddie, the Scots borrowed those words from English in the 1540s, more than two centuries after ladde appeared in English. In 1300 it meant both foot solider & young male servant. Like lass, lad’s source has etymologists’ collective knickers in a twist. Some suggest lad comes from a Middle English word meaning one who is led. Other word sleuths argue for a Norwegian word meaning young man, while those aforesaid Norse provide the most unlikely & intriguing possibility. It seems there was a time when pejorative terms associated the slandered subject with shoes, socks or stockings (I’m not making this up). The Old Norse word for woolen stockings or hose was ladd, and may have been the source for our modern word lad, though if so, it came through boys being referred to as the equivalent of fools.

And of course, there are the deliciously negative terms born in 1960s, rugrat & anklebiter.

Any thoughts about all these childish words? Please say so in the comments section.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Collins Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, & the OED.

1 comment:

  1. These are great fun! They still use the word "Lass" to mean unmarried woman in parts of northeast England settled by Vikings, so I'd go with that source. They also call small children "bairns," which I know comes from Scots, but I'll bet that has a Viking origin, too.