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The vocabulary of insult is huge. Let's spend some time looking at terms for not-so-admirable people in our world.

layabout – a person who habitually does little or no work

Since the term seems to be more common in the UK, I'll pose a question to our UK readers. Does layabout have a sense of the dilettante, rather than the lazy worker?
    The point is," he said, "that people like you and me, Slartibartfast, and Arthur-particularly and especially Arthur-are just dilettantes, eccentrics, layabouts if you like."
    – Douglas Adams, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
 
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Does layabout have a sense of the dilettante, rather than the lazy worker?

Not to me. A layabout is a lazy person ot any kind. A dilettante is one who engages in an activity without serious intent. However, he or she could actually be working quite hard at the activity.


Richard English
 
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I'm with Richard.

A dilettante could be a layabout, but not necessarily. A layabout is simply lazy.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Today's word has several interesting, useful meanings, and a hearer will immediately understand it from context. Thus, though it is rare, it merits wider use. Few dictionaries define it, and they define it poorly.

chairwarmer
1. an interim officeholder "keeping the chair warm" until the proper successor takes office
    When he [Goh Chok Tong] was named Prime Minister in November 1990, the PAP politician was only 49--and widely dismissed as a chairwarmer for Lee Kuan Yew's older son, Lee Hsien Loong, then 38.¹
2. one who, with only office experience (in his chair), meddles in practical matters
    Some chairwarmer in [the Office] cooks up a crack-pot notion of how things ought to be done. Maybe he was never in the plant but he don't let that bother him.²
3. one who lounges long in a hotel lobby, etc.
    He had heard loungers about hotels called chairwarmers. He had called them that himself in his day.³

¹Terry McCarthy and Eric Ellis, Time Magazine, July 19, 1999
²Melville Dalton, Men who Manage, quoting a worker, in Sociology of Economic Life (Mark Granovetter, Richard Swedburg, ed.) (brackets in text cited)
³Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
 
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Today's word dabster has switched meanings. A dab, is one skilled in something, an expert, an adept. Dabster originally meant the same.

In contrast, to daub is to smear on; in painting it means to lay on colors clumsily, and thus a daubster is a clumsy painter.

Dabster was a positive word, but it sounds much like both dabbler and daubster. Perhaps that is why dabster acquired those negative meanings. They now seem to be the more common meanings.

dabster1. a person skilled at something. 2. a dabbler; or, a clumsy, inept painter
    "No? Really, can you paint?"
    "Not as badly as they. No, I don't claim that, for I am not a genius; in fact, I am a very indifferent amateur, a slouchy dabster, a mere artistic sarcasm; but drunk or asleep I can beat those buccaneers."
    – Mark Twain, The American Claimant, Ch. XVII

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The ending -taster was used for someone who was amateurish or simply poor; as in poetaster. I wonder if there might be some connection?

The -ster ending was usually used to indicate a female practitioner, as in spinster and brewster. Therefore a dabster would be a female dauber. Is there some sexism here, I wonder?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I don't think the -ster still has that same connotation. I have heard that kind of ending used in pop culture to mean more -meister, or expert.

For example, someone might say, "oh yes, he's a real brewmeister, a brewster . . ."

Has anyone else heard this kind of usage?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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faineant; fainéantnoun: an irresponsible idler; a do-nothing
adj.: idle and ineffectual.
(fainéance; fainéancy)
[From French fait + néant, does + nothing]

Here's a tidbit that may aid your recall. The French king from 967-987, the last Carolingian, was Louis le fainéant. Interestingly, England's king then was Ethelred the Unready. ('Unready' doesn't mean unprepared. It is from the Old English word meaning 'indecisive'.)
    Muslim historians claimed that Chingiz Khan communicated with devils in trances. … The Muslim princes opposing the Mongols were by contrast judged as ditherers and faineants.
    – Robert Irwin, in The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World (Francis Robinson, ed.)

    … the negative, fainéant outlook which has been fashionable among English left-wingers, the sniggering of the intellectuals at patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life, has done nothing but harm.
    – George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, part I
Dictionary sources add that a god who does not act in human affairs, and hence is not worshiped, is called a faineant deity.
 
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CW,

I don't think that Mark Twain was using the type of slang used in pop culture. Wink


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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We'll narrow our theme to "laziness," for your industrious wordcrafter has now found a seventh term for "idler," suitable to present here. Let's continue through those terms.

sluggard – a lazy, sluggish person
    'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
    "You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
    – Isaac Watts, The Sluggard
There's a take-off on the Watts lines, so famous that the take-off and its author are much better known than Watts and his original. The first to post that take-off and source on our board will claim a prize beyond price: one free year of Wordcraft Words of the Day.

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"Stand up and repeat 'Tis the Voice of the Sluggard' said the Gryphon."

The Lobster
‘Tis the voice of the Lobster; I heard him declare,
‘You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.’
As a duck with its eyelids, so he with his nose
Trims his belt and his buttons, and turns out his toes.
When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark,
But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
His voice has a timid and tremulous sound

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll


RJA
 
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Good for you, Robert. I knew it was familiar, but couldn't place it OR find it.

Enjoy your prize! Smile
 
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Kudos to you, Robert! I think you already have a subscription, but you can pass your prize off to a friend if you like; just send me the name. Wink
 
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goldbrick – a shirker: someone, esp. a soldier, who avoids assigned duties (also, something that appears valuable but is actually worthless)

As one newspaper puts it, "A goldbrick is a soldier who is allergic to work."

The term can also be pressed into use as a verb, and it shades into the notion of playing hooky, spending some office time on personal calls, taking a bit of time off.
    "I think a certain amount of goldbricking is necessary to preserve your sanity," says Henry McCarl, professor of economics … "I think anyone who says they don't goldbrick is kidding themselves."
    – Cristina Rouvalis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 20, 1999.
 
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lollygagger – one who dawdles or putters around (verb: to lollygag)
    The life of a traveler can be rough. But being a tourist is another matter. As tourists we were free to sleep late, eat out, and keep no schedule at all. We became lollygaggers at large. It was not a difficult transition.
    – Marilyn J. Abraham, First We Quit Our Jobs [etc.]
 
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Here's a word that fits the theme exactly, but one that you've probably never heard before. A common enough word in my neck of the woods, though. I hear it all the time. Angishore It is pronounced with an aspirate "h" in front, as in "hangashore". It means "a weak, ineffectual or lazy person." With that pronunciation and that meaning, one would assume that it had been coined to describe a fisherman who was too lazy to go to sea. Not so. It actually derives from the old Irish word aindeiseoir meaning "a poverty-stricken creature". Moral: don't trust folk etymologies!


Wordcrafter comments: Fascinating, Duncan. I had found that word here while preparing this them, but had assumed it was a typo because I couldn't substantiate it in any on-line dictionary.

Since the net is almost barren of data, your input is espectially welcome. The term seems to be Newfoundland lingo; is that where you are hearing it? Can you add references for the etymology you note?

I am seriously impressed here. Thank you.



Duncan adds: Instead of " a poverty-stricken creature" , a better definition of aindeiseoirwould be "an unfortunate person or thing". In regard to that Irish root, you might consult Focloir Gaedhilge agus bearla; An Irish-English Dictionary, ed. Patrick S. Dindeen (Dublin:Educational Company of Ireland,1927; rpt. 1965). In regard to angishore you will find plenty of info in Dictionary of Newfoundland English eds. G.M. Storey, W.J.Kirwin and J.D.A. Widdowson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982). I'm glad I dusted off that old word. It's a hit! I call it "old" mainly because it's not commonly heard coming from the younger generation. But, boomers like me have it. You are right about the Newfoundland connection. That's where I live. I might add that we have retained many old English and Irish words here (words that are now extinct where they came from). Our dialect is closer to Elizabethan English than to North American or current British English. Our Dictionary (mentioned above) is quite a scholarly, useful volume.

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Nice word, Duncan.

For the record, I love this theme...and lollygagger is a favorite of mine. I used to tell the kids to "stop lollygagging!" Big Grin
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:

sluggard – a lazy, sluggish person
    'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
    "You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
    – Isaac Watts, The Sluggard
There's a take-off on the Watts lines, so famous that the take-off and its author are much better known than Watts and his original. The first to post that take-off and source on our board will claim a prize beyond price: one free year of Wordcraft Words of the Day.


I applaud Robert A. - but when I saw "'tis the voice of the sluggard" - the first line that popped into my mind was "the voice of the turtle is heard in our land"

... but of course that came from Solomon's Song of Songs (which may be Watt's inspiration for the original):

My beloved spake, and said unto me,

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines [with] the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

THE SONG OF SOLOMON, I. 10-13

Vicky Go
 
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Nice to see you here, Vicky Go!

Hasn't this theme been a delight?
 
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"stop lollygagging!"

My mom always said "stop lollygagging around". Does that make it redundant?


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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Duncan, my apologies. In the course of responding to you, I mistakenly edited your post. (Ah, such is the danger of adminstrative powers.) Could you please reproduce it? Thank you.
 
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Duncan has graciously reproduced his post, and added further information. You will find it above at his January 15 entry.
 
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