Printable Version
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.

Dr. Goodword,

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