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Word for the Wise September 21, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Female curmudgeon

Call us crusty (that is, with a harsh or surly manner that may conceal an inner kindliness), but we were taken aback by the breadth and volume of responses to a listener's request for the term for a female curmudgeon. (来源:http://www.EnglishCN.com)

A number of suggestions were plays on curmudgeon (which, for the record, refers to "a crusty, ill-tempered, usually old man"): curmudgeoness, curmudgeonette, curmudgeanne, and curmadgeon, to name a few.

Other terms might be considered name-calling: there was the "B-word" (in its sense meaning "malicious, spiteful, and overbearing woman"), as well as a number of references to particular people or members of certain political parties. One respondent mused on the dearth of descriptive terms including a positive undercurrent: a curmudgeon may be loveable, but old biddy, old bat, battle-ax, hag, and shrew are nothing but negative.

Speaking of shrew, that term for "an ill-tempered, scolding woman" has plenty of company. Its synonyms include termagant, harridan, and harpy.

One popular suggestion for a female curmudgeon was Maxine. That heroine of the Crabby Road comic strip was created by artist John Wagner; the fictional Maxine is nothing if not ill-tempered, but despite her disposition, she comes across as lovable.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in.

 
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