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Short words this week. Let’s start with one that has a funny sound and a funny quote.

quiffchiefly British: a piece of hair brushed upwards and backwards from a man's forehead

Our quote provides proof (as if proof were needed) that men are clueless. Or at least, British men.
    Elvis Presley's iconic quiff has come out top of the charts among British men's favourite hairstyles, says a research [sic]. According to the study, which polled more than 4,000 Britons, 50 per cent of men voted for the King's trademark quiff and sideburns. … However, 66 per cent of women found men with crew cuts, sported by style icons such as movie star Brad Pitt, had more sex appeal than men with quiffs.
    – London, March 2, 2010 (ANI, but mostly picked up by the press of India)
 
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nard – a fragrant ointment of the ancients. It apparently ranked right up with frankincense and myrrh.
    Two thousand years ago, one of the most sought-after ingredients in the Mediterranean was nard, also known as spikenard. You can still find it at some Middle Eastern shops under the name "valerian root." It … has an attractive musky, tarry, resinous aroma that would probably make you think of hair tonic. In fact, it is used in some hair tonics for its aroma … . Jesus was anointed with a costly preparation of nard just a few days before the Last Supper.
    Revenge of the Nard, Los Angeles Times, Nov., 3, 1999

    Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? … Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
    – King James Bible, John 12:3-8; told somewhat differently at Mark 14 (“… and she … poured it on his head”) and Matthew 26
 
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pogeyCanadian: the dole; government stipend
    It's OK for Ottawa to match customs records with employment insurance files to catch people on pogey who travel, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday. … jobless people collecting pogey are supposed to be actively seeking work. They can only receive benefits and travel if they first get permission from the EI [Employment Insurance] office.
    – Spectator (Hamilton, Ont.), Dec. 8, 2001
 
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niff – an unpleasant smell

Here used as a verb:
    His eyes, like stars, started from their spheres and he leaped from the chair, spilling the contents of the glass and causing the room to niff like the saloon bar of a pub on a Saturday night.
    – P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
 
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whey – the watery part of milk that remains after curds form (i.e., the more “liquid” part of cottage cheese)
    Little Miss Muffet
    Sat on a tuffet,
    Eating her curds and whey;
    Along came a spider,
    Who sat down beside her
    And frightened Miss Muffet away.
It is a little-known fact that the spider, smitten with Miss Muffet, was merely trying to arrange a social introduction. Unfortunately, the minute swain stumbled over his own eight feet, and fell plop into Miss Muffet’s meal.
    And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss
    To whom you have something to say,
    You are only absurd when you get in the curd
    But you're rude when you get in the whey.
    – Guy Wetmore Carryl, The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet
 
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An extra. I found this word, a new one to me, just a few minutes ago, while sipping coffee and reading my morning newspaper.
    He must "spange" — a street term for begging or scamming —$100 a day to feed his [heroin] habit.
    – Chicago Tribune, August 1, 2010
 
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This is the first I've heard of the word. But spange, blend of spare change or spare any change, apparently first appeared in print in The New York Times in 1996.
quote:
  • Leg-Rub Steve, a middle-aged married man, is one adult they can usually count on, but at this moment even he is letting Erin down. He is late, and Erin, a hyperactive Northern California child, is getting antsy. For distraction, he tries begging from the hipsters on a rain-slicked St. Marks. They call it ''spanging,'' a slurred ''spare any change?''

  • ''I don't spange much because I really don't like doing it. I eat out of trash cans a lot. Pizza. Hamburgers. Fries. Soda. Every now and again you luck out and find a pack of cigarettes.
    ''It's survival of the fittest. Those that aren't fit have to go home.''



Anne H. Soukhanov, author of Word Watch in 1995, published a "Word Watch" column in The Atlantic Monthly from September 1995 to December 2000. She records the word in her April 1997 column:

quote:
spange verb, slang, to panhandle for spare change: "'I don't spange much because I really don't like doing it. I eat out of trash cans a lot. Pizza. Hamburgers. Fries. Soda.... It's survival of the fittest. Those that aren't fit have to go home'" (young male living on the streets, quoted in The New York Times Magazine).
BACKGROUND: Spange is a slurred shorthand form -- an oral acronym, as it were -- of the question "Spare any change?" Like the expression traveler, used for a young drifter who rides the rails or hitchhikes from city to city, it comes from the argot of today's street punks. Some of those, ironically, are trustafarians -- rich or upper-middle-class youths living on the streets by choice. The term trustafarian, a blend of trust fund and Rastafarian, dates back to at least 1992 in British sources and reflects the dreadlocks hairstyles and neo-hippie, unkempt clothing affected by some of these youths.

The first use of the word I've found in a newspaper was in The Ledger - Feb 13, 1997 (Lakeland, Florida):
quote:
Carrie wanders off to take up her daily occupation of "spanging" (SPAIN-jing), begging for spare change.

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