Word Of The Month Club: poltroon


As Gert was drifting off to sleep the other night, the word “poltroon” popped into her mind.  What a lovely insult. Just roll it around in your mouth. We need to bring it back, along with Gert’s all-time favourite, “cream-faced loon”.

A poltroon, Dr Johnson’s dictionary tells us is “a coward; a nidgit; a scoundrel”. That’s a nidgit, not an idiot.  “Nidget” is an opprobrious term with which the man was anciently branded who refused to come to the royal standard in times of exigency.  Put Gert down as a  nidget, then, but not a poltroon, let alone a cream-faced loon. We have a feeling that there are other like-minded souls among our blog friends.



9 thoughts on “Word Of The Month Club: poltroon

  1. When I first met my other half one of her favourite books was Spike Milligan’s Puckoon (nearly half a century on I fancy she may still have that copy on her shelves) and I was long under the impression that this meant the same as poltroon. Sadly I was mistaken but now I’m encouraged to dig the novel out—with her permission of course!

  2. And another thing: a nidgit (as opposed to ‘an eejit’) reminds me of the word ‘nickname’.

    Originally the phrase was ‘an ekename’, that is ‘each-name’ or a name pertaining to an individual; over time the ‘n’ of ‘an’ was mistakenly transferred to the following word and nickname was born.

    There’s a fancy term for this process but I can’t for the life of me remember it: metathesis is not quite right.

  3. Dr Johnson says it’s from ‘non compos’. “A fool, a trifler” Another word for ist is ‘ninnyhammer’. I imagine a ninnyhammer as a woman and a nincompoop as a man.

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