• wimp •
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: (Humorous slang) 1. [Noun] A weak, indecisive, and ineffectual person; a coward. 2. [Verb] To act cowardly, to 'chicken' (out), to get cold feet.
Notes: Although this Good Word has been around since the 1920s, it gained great popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. Though originally a noun, it may be used as a verb, as in to try to play the champion but wimp out at the last minute. The adjective is wimpy, used with comparatives wimpier and wimpiest. There is no evidence of a connection with hamburger connoisseur J. Wellington Wimpy of the Popeye cartoon strip. That Wimpy has 24 university degrees and is intellectually too sophisticated.
In Play: Today's Good Word is a less offensive way to call someone a coward by using a humorous, slangy term: "Porter Bella is too much of a wimp to try real Mexican food; invite him over when we are having tunafish sandwiches." The verb is almost always used with the preposition out: "Les Waite promised to swim with the Polar Bears in their pool cut in the river ice, but he wimped out."
Word History: The verb whimp has been in English since at least the 15th century alongside its synonym, whimper. In fact, the latter may be a blend of whimp and simper, used dialectally in the same sense. The best guess is that today's Good Word is a variation of this word. It first began appearing in published form in the 1920s. In England it was a derogatory word for woman and in the US the meaning was similar, given the prejudices against strength and decisiveness in women, though it is more often a slur directed at men
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