Miserly

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
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Miserly

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Jan 28, 1999 12:00 am

A friend and I seperately came to an odd point over this "niggardly" flap in DC. In the stories each of us read (both ap, but she was in DC, I live in Boston), there was a line that if the man had just used the word "miserly" in place of "niggardly" he would have been on PC terra firma.

Of course the whole thing is ridiculous, but we wondered the same thing - what's the origin of miserly? In an email exchanged we found that we both wondered if there was some anti-semetic link to that word, not that we had any proof, but it begs the question, based on odious stereotyping and the like.
Submitted by j brida (Boston - U.S.A.)
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Miserly

Post by Jonathon Green » Tue Feb 02, 1999 8:00 am

Miser comes from Latin 'miser', wretched, unfortunate. Thus the miser as a person is thus characterised. The connection has no anti-semitic overtones as far as I can see - other than the centuries-old sterotyping of Jews and moneylending. Although Jews, I might suggest, are associated in this negative image not so much with hoarding, as with using money to increase their wealth.
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