• Last modified 974 days ago (Sept. 22, 2016)


Words we no longer use

Several weeks ago, I wrote a column about the effects of a strong thunder and windstorm moving through Marion County late one night. The storm ripped the roof off the patio the Youngest Daughter had added to her restaurant and bar, the Coneburg Inn.

In that column, I referred to the storm as a “weather kerfuffle.” Said Daughter had never heard the term kerfuffle. “What is that?” she asked.

I often try to insert words like that in my columns because I think they are fun, they expand our knowledge, and because there is one reader who actually looks them up if he does not know the meaning. That is a dying art and his efforts to enrich his vocabulary makes my day.

At any rate, our restaurant owner is trying to come up with a sandwich, burger, or dinner called a kerfuffle-something for her next menu. She seems fairly serious about incorporating the word into her vocabulary as well. She and some friends attended the water-logged Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield this past week and a half and upon returning home, used the term weather-kerfuffle several times to explain the evacuation of about 15,000 people from the festival. I did not tell her so, but I think the evacuation of 15,000 people from a flooded fairground and camping area is likely not just a kerfuffle. I think it is probably a major weather event.

I love using old words and sharing them with younger folks who may not ever have heard them. I hope the Youngest Daughter can think of a kerfuffle wrap or sandwich to put on her menu. Think of all the people who might learn the term and perhaps even use it, setting off a kerfuffle discussion of some major proportions — or perhaps not.

I will also admit here that I went in search of my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in hopes of finding the word kerfuffle. None of the more recent online references made note of the word. That poor old dictionary must have gone to its great reward. It is nowhere to be found, so I am out of official information about the word kerfuffle.

I guess I could move on to the word “guttersnipe.” However, that might be a homemade word as, once again, I do not seem to be able to find reference to it in print.

My mother used to note that certain female clothing, make-up, and behavior transformed young women into guttersnipes. She always lowered her voice when she said it, so we knew it was a word that did not create a positive image.

I will admit to thinking of some females as guttersnipes. The word just has a certain ring to it. Perhaps that was the message my mother hoped I would learn from the term. Mothers can be tricky that way.

It is funny how many old words we heard growing up that we do not hear anymore. Try to think of a couple from your childhood and use them this week. Let me know how that turned out. I would love to hear about it.

—susan marshall

Last modified Sept. 22, 2016