Saturday, November 5, 2011



A lot of people know that a duffer is a bad golfer, but that's not all it is.  You can be a duffer if you are clumsy and bad at doing almost anything.  Or you can just be incompetent and dull, and that will make you also make you a duffer.

In the beginning, though, a duffer was someone who sold you worthless junk.  A duffer had low morals and would cheat you and trick you into buying something you should know better than to buy.  But then after a while, the word started to refer to the person who was stupid enough to buy the bad things, and not to the person who sold them.

By the late 19th century, a duffer meant somebody who was a bad golfer.  But it also had other meanings, such as being someone who made a stupid mistake or who acts like a complete idiot.  A slang use of duffer is to describe an old person who is driving or walking in a very slow, annoying way.

In Australia, a duffer is a mine or quarry that doesn't produce anything.  Or it can be a person who steals cattle, like what we would call a rustler in the U.S.


This word comes from Latin, and it means "what now."  So a quidnunc is a person who is always wanting to know the latest news and gossip about everybody.  And this person might not be too careful about getting all of their facts correct.  Other words for quidnunc are busybody, buttinsky, meddler, or gossipmonger.  In British slang, another term for a quidnunc is a "nosey parker."


Most people probably know this word, but Mom told me that she is always forgetting what it means, so she asked me to put it in my blog.  And of course, I like to make Mom happy, so she will keep feeding me, like I've told you before.

Anyway, something that's prosaic is dull and boring and ordinary, and it lacks imagination.   This word started out about 1650-60, and it came from the Latin word prosaicus, which is the same word that prose comes from.  So if something is prosaic, it's kind of matter-of-fact, like prose instead of being romantic and beautiful, like poetry.

Well, I have to say that I think prose can be every bit as beautiful as poetry, especially if it's nicely written, like the prose in my blog, for example.  So I think the word prosaic is kind of unfair and mean, and I'm not sure I'll be using it a whole lot!


Okay, this is an entire phrase, and not just one word, but I have to admit that I never understood why clams were so darned happy.  In my opinion, it would make more sense to say "happy as a puppy" or "happy as a kitten."  But when I did my research on this phrase, I found out that the whole phrase is "happy as a clam at high tide."

I've never gone out to dig for clams because we don't live anywhere near the ocean, but what I learned on the internet is that you cannot hunt for clams when the tide is high because the water is too deep.  You have to wait for low tide to get your clams.  And so when the tide is high, the clams are supposedly happy because people can't come and dig them out of the sand and eat them.

No one is sure when the clam phrase got started, but people might have been using the original, longer phrase in the middle of the 18th century.  The first record of the shorter phrase in print is in 1830.  I think maybe people like the idea of being all safe and protected inside a shell, like a clam is.  For a dog, it would be kind of like being in a den, but not as good as sleeping with your mom in bed, which is what I did last night, and it made me as happy as a clam!


I put this word in because I think it's fun to say.  As you probably know, it means to mess around and waste time.  One of the earliest recorded uses of the word was in 1868, but back then lollygag meant to flirt and make a public display of affection.  Another spelling of the word is lallygag.  In the Iowa Northern Vindicator of February 27, 1868, there was a complaint about "The lascivious lolly-gagging lumps of licentiousness who disgrace the common decencies of life by their love-sick fawnings at our public dances."  And I would just like to point out that this sentence is prose, but I don't think it's prosaic at all!

An even earlier meaning for lallygag seems to have been something that was nonsense or of no worth.  Here's a poem about a dead cow, published September 14, 1859 in the Wisconsin Sparta Democrat:

22 Kwarts of milck she give,
As true as Eye dew liv,
but now er 12 Kwart bag
Aint wuth a lallygag,
Poor old Thyng!

Well, that's all the new words for today.  I hope you have learned a little something  I know I did!


  1. Hmmm...there were a couple words that I don't recall ever hearing before: prosaic & quidnunc! Once again I learned something! Thanks for the info!
    Love, AP