Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mosey Along, Wench, But Look Out For That Masher

These three words (mosey, wench, and masher) came up on Tuesday’s program. Mosey is one of those words that has reversed meaning over the years. Originally, it meant to leave quickly, to make haste. Now it means to amble, to wander around in a leisurely manner. No one is quite sure where it came from, but one suggestion is that it originated in the second syllable of the Spanish vamos, let’s go.

Wench shares the reversal feature of mosey. Originally, it had an innocent meaning: a girl, maid, or young woman. Then it transferred to a woman of the working class, a servant girl. Finally, it took on negative connotations: a woman of loose morals, a mistress, found most often in a bar or brothel.

Masher also did a turnaround. It started out meaning a dandy, a fashionable young man of the late Victorian or Edwardian era. When the word crossed the Atlantic and came to America, it signified a womanizer, a man who makes unwelcome sexual advances to women. Take that, you cad!

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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