Word of the Week (212): MEACOCK (probability 30966), by David Sutton

MEACOCK is a Shakespearean word for a meek man who dotes on his wife, or is henpecked.

There are plenty of other terms of abuse if you want to accuse a man of being a wimp, wuss, woose or coward. A VILIACO (plural VILIACOES or VILIACOS) is an archaic word for a coward, and this has variants VILIAGO, VILLAGIO, VILLIACO and VILLIAGO; all take plurals in -ES or -S.

POLTROON and CRAVEN also have an archaic flavour; the latter can also be used as a verb: to render someone spiritless. A Shakespearean form of POLTROON is POULTROONE.

COWHEARD is a Spenserian word for coward.

A SCARAMOUCH or SCARAMOUCHE was a bragging cowardly buffoon; again this can be a verb: to behave in a cowardly bragging way. This derives from the name of a character in old Italian comedy, and also gives the title of a novel by Rafael Sabatini, a somewhat forgotten writer of derring-do romances still popular in my childhood. The first line of 'Scaramouche', which was made into a film starring Stewart Granger, provides the inscription on Sabatini's headstone at Adelboden in Switzerland: 'He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad'. Quite.

A MILKTOAST or MILQUETOAST was a very timid, unassertive person; this derives from Caspar Milquetoast, a comic strip character created in 1924 by the American cartoonist Harold T. Webster.

So, if you now want to BECOWARD someone, you have the ammunition to do so.


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