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Twerp

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Twerp

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu May 09, 2013 9:14 pm

• twerp •


Pronunciation: twêrp • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: An insignificant, annoying person.

Notes: Today's odd little word is a lexical orphan without any related derivations. Of course, we are free to add the suffix -y and create an adjective, twerpy, which opens the way for a noun twerpiness. The adjective already appears 23,200 times on the Web and the noun, about 2460 times.

In Play: Young siblings often perceive each other as twerps: "Mom, will you speak to Winthrop! The little twerp rode my bike to the playground and got mud all over it!" But twerpiness is not bound by size or age, for it is, after all, in the eye of the beholder: "The little twerp in accounting took me to a hamburger joint for dinner last night; I'll never go out with him again!"

Word History: Today's Good Word remains of uncertain origin but it might have originated in the name of a student at Exeter College, Oxford, around the turn of the 20th century. According to a letter from J. R. R. Tolkien published in 1981, the original twerp was T. W. Earp, an acquaintance of Tolkien, who ". . . lived in O[xford] at the time when we lived in Pusey Street (rooming with Walton, the composer)." Whether Tolkien was writing tongue in cheek or not is difficult to discern; however, Roy Campbell in his book Portugal (1957) makes the same claim. Earp matriculated in the Michaelmas Term, 1911. The first known published example of the word appeared in 1925, fitting the time frame established by Tolkien and Campbell very nicely. T. W. Earp was a poet and translator, not one of the gunfighters at the OK Corral.
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Re: Twerp

Postby misterdoe » Fri May 10, 2013 2:44 am

Wnenever I see this word it reminds me of an episode review of the TV series Taxi from way back when. Danny DeVito's character Louie DePalma was described in the review as a "bossy little twerp." I think that was the first time I saw it in print.
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Re: Twerp

Postby MTC » Fri May 10, 2013 7:47 am

Louie De Palma is the avatar of "twerp," his diminuitive size embodying smallness and insignificance. This is the contemptuous tyranny of the big over the small. We see "little" paired with "twit" in the phrase "that little twerp," and "you little twerp." "Little" is redundant; only there to further diminish or "belittle" the subject.

When not used humorously, words like "twerp" and "twit" can crack with insult like a whip. But why? According to an Oxford etymologist (trumpet fanfare here,) "In English, tw- suggests something fidgety and inconsequential: compare, in addition to the words cited above, tweak, twitter ~ Twitter, tweet, tweedle ~ twiddle ~twizzle."
(http://blog.oup.com/2013/03/twerk-twerp ... rd-origin/) I would add that words like "twit," "twerp," and "dolt" are short like a snap or blast, and end with an explosive puff.

And puff, I'm gone!
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Re: Twerp

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri May 10, 2013 12:08 pm

Bill Camfield, a DFW Metroplex TV actor, played host to a children's program as Icky Twerp in the 60s. Although he was a nationally known serous actor he is best remembered as Icky Twerp. My children loved him. He was neither icky or twerpy except for the name.
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Re: Twerp

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat May 11, 2013 12:06 pm

Siblings do love pet names for each other.
Curtis in the comic of the same name, calls his
little brother "Troll".
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Twerp

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat May 11, 2013 4:16 pm

Several gals in HS were called "sister," as in Sister Jones or Sister Smith. After 60 years, they are still called that at reunions! We have no Bubbas in that class, however.
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Re: Twerp

Postby Philip Hudson » Sat May 11, 2013 7:01 pm

Since this thread has shifted to nicknames, I have the following offering of nicknames and titles from my redneck heritage.

One's actual sister might be called Sis or Sissy and an actual brother could be Bro, Bub, Bud or Bubba. Peanut, Kakawati (Peanut in TexMex but not in Spanish), and Pewee were also common monikers for boys. If the nickname stuck, people from outside the family might use it. Brother and Sister were reserved as religious titles. We had no spiritual Fathers, Reverends, Reverend Fathers or Reverend Mothers amongst us. The professional clergy were called Brother and Sister. Yes, Sister Bradford was a local pastor. Female ministers are not a new thing. An adult who was among your family friends was called Mr. Firstname or Mrs. Firstname. Most people were addressed as Mr. Lastname or Mrs. Lastname. Only medical doctors were called Doctor. A child called every adult ma’am or sir.
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Re: Twerp

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat May 11, 2013 9:04 pm

The discussion grew out of twerp as a pet name, ergo relevant.
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