This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Word To Use Today: prune.

Is calling someone a prune an insult or a term of affection?

My Collins dictionary says that in Britain a prune is a dull, uninteresting or foolish person; but surely when someone says hello old prune then all that's implied is a fond camaraderie.

Of course if the person addressed is a woman then, whatever is meant, it's likely to be met with a smack round the chops, for a female is likely to be sensitive to any reference to prunes.

Because prunes, it must be admitted, are not known for the freshness of their skins.  Prunes are not only wrinkled, but they are pitted both within and without.

I suppose that if you leave your plums on the tree until they shrivel you might end up in the delightful position of being able to prune your prunes - though sadly this is unlikely to happen in the USA, because there the use of prunes as a laxative has apparently rendered them so embarrassing that the word prune has been taken off packaging and replaced with the frankly dull dried plum.

Well, that just means there's all the more need for us to be brave and bold and to channel our inner PG Wodehouse so we can keep the word prune in circulation.

This is from The Go-Getter.

"Mark this, old prune," amended Freddie, "And mark it well. Beefers is tried, true and trusted. A man to be relied on..."

...Gertrude resumed her playing. Her mouth was set in an obstinate line.

I leave it to you to decide if it's worth the risk.

Because on the whole I think Freddie got off lightly.

Word To Use Today: prune. The fruit comes from the  Latin prūnum, which means plum. The verb comes from the Old French proignier, to clip, and is probably to do with provignier, to prune vines and the Latin propāgo, which means a cutting.


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