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, December 20, 2018

Put-downs starting with S

Put-downs starting with S

For those moments in life when you just need a put-down that starts with the letter S:

Schlemiela fool or bumbler — arrived in English in the 1860s from a Yiddish word which probably came from the name of a general involved in ill-fated battles & at least one ill-fated extramarital affair.

Scofflawone who habitually ignores the law — arrived in English in 1923, as the winner of a contest posed by Delcevare King, who asked people to coin a word to define those who ignored the 18th amendment by drinking or making illegal alcohol.

Scoundrel an unprincipled knave or rogue - showed up in English in the 1580s. Though its origin hasn’t been pinned down, it may have come from a French word meaning to hide oneself.

Sharka predatory person or swindler — Appearing in English in the 1560s, shark may have come from a Mayan word meaning shark, however, many etymologists insist shark was initially applied as an insult to humans, probably from a German word meaning rascal. When it came time to put a name to a toothy, predatory fish, the word shark seemed to fit.

Skinflint a stingy, miserly person — showing up in English in the 1700s, skinflint defines an individual who is such a cheapskate, s/he would try to scrape skin off a piece of rock (flint) for profit.

Slob — an untidy, loutish individual — slob appeared in English in the 1780s from a Scandinavian source, meaning mud & mire, & by the 1860s, it gained its modern meaning.

Sluggard — a lazy person or idler — coming to English around the 1400s, probably from a Norwegian word meaning slow, it originally applied to slow-moving people, boats, & animals.

Stooge — an incompetent underling — arriving in English in 1913 meaning a stage assistant or straight man (& butt of a comedian’s jokes), stooge grew to mean incompetent underling by the 1930s. It may have come from the word student, as students sometimes assisted actors on stage.

So which S word would you love to put to use? Which one would you likely avoid using? 

My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Hugh Rawson’s Wicked Words,, Wordnik, Merriam-WebsterCollins Dictionary, & the OED.


  1. In honor of Penny Marshall... Schlemiel

    1. Schlemiel is such a fine word. Amazing it doesn't get more use. Thanks for coming by, Jr.

  2. I love the word Schlemiel too. Interesting that it was somebody's name. Sluggard is a great word, too. I wish it were still in common circulation.

    But I'm not buying it about the sharks. Or at least I'm going with the Mayans. Human sharks came before toothy marine creatures? What did they call them before 1560, I wonder? If one of those things was biting you, it would be harder to call out "bitey big fishy thing!" when calling for help instead of "shark!" :-)

    1. Ha! Maybe that's what Camilla can call them when dinghying with Dr. Bob!

  3. Try:
    suck up
    Of course I’ll omit the obvious scatological go to! (Poopie)

    1. Hey Colby -- thanks for coming by & commenting. You're right -- it's a game of pick-and-choose. Since the site mostly looks into word histories, I tend to choose words with intriguing histories, though I'm betting your offered words might have some rich etymologies.