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The Musings of a Literate Shrew

Name:
literateshrew
Birthdate:
30 August
Location:
External Services:
  • literateshrew AIM status
shrew (n) :
1. "small mammal," O.E. screawa "shrew-mouse," unknown outside English, perhaps from P.Gmc. *skreu- "to cut" (see shred). Alternate O.E. word for it was scirfemus, from sceorfan "to gnaw."
2. "peevish, malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman" [Johnson] c.1386, from earlier sense of "spiteful person" (male or female), c.1250, traditionally said to derive from some supposed malignant influence of the animal, which was once believed to have a venomous bite and was held in superstitious dread. Shrewish "scolding" is from 1565, originally "wicked, evil" (1375).

harridan (n) : c. 1700, "one that is half Whore, half Bawd" ["Dictionary of the Canting Crew"]; "a decayed strumpet" [Johnson], from Fr. haridelle "a poore tit, or leane ill-favored jade," [Cotgrave, 1611], in Fr. from 16c., of unknown origin.

termagant (n) : c. 1500, "violent, overbearing person" (especially of women), from Teruagant, Teruagaunt (c.1205), name of a fictitious Muslim deity appearing in medieval morality plays, from O.Fr. Tervagant, a proper name in "Chanson de Roland" (c.1100), of uncertain origin.

Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay


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