Columns » Words

Words

by and

comment

Stop snapping your whipper, old-timer:

“Somebody once called me a young whippersnapper, but that was many years ago. Am I now an old whippersnapper?”

Without meeting you, I can’t say for sure. But if the question is “Can a whippersnapper be old?” the answer is yes, but they’re rare. My dictionary says that a whippersnapper is “An unimportant but offensively presumptuous person, especially a young one.” It doesn’t explain the origin of the word.

You probably won’t be called a whippersnapper these days, even if you are one. The word seems to have fallen into disuse. In my recollection, it was always more common in writing than in speech.

Fagfest:

We — and by that I mean I — discussed on May 17 a controversy involving a couple of uses of fag, one being “to tire or weary” and the other “a male homosexual.” Pavel Korchagin writes concerning that discussion, “When I was in Europe many years ago, some of my English friends referred to cigarettes as fags.”

Yes, that’s one more definition of fag. Counting verbs and nouns both, it has a bunch. Yet another meaning for the verb, one that’s used mostly in Britain but known to many Americans through books and movies, is “to require (a younger public school student) to do menial chores.” PBS showed a new version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” not long ago. In one crucial scene, Chips forcefully informs a bullying older student that there’ll be no more fagging.

Add a comment

Clicky