Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Chintzy & Tawdry



On today’s program, William from Charlevoix asked about two synonyms: chintzy and tawdry. Both mean cheap, substandard, and unfashionable.

Chintzy is the adjective form of chintz, a Hindi word. Chintz was a painted or stained calico imported from India. The name was extended to include cheap cotton cloth stained with patterns, often containing many garish colors.

Tawdry is a shortened form of tawdry lace. It was neckware, a sort of tie or lace necklace favored by women in the 16th and early 17th century. In turn, tawdry is a shorted form of St. Audrey. Venerable Bede explained the origin in his Ecclesiastical History. St. Audrey (aka Ethelreda) died of a neck tumor. She considered it fitting because as a young woman, she was sinfully vain, frequently adorning herself with splendid necklaces. So what started as something expensive and fashionable eventually degenerated into cheap and gaudy versions favored by country wenches.

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

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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





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