Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to learn new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).
This is my second time through the alphabet and I’m looking at the letter G this week. Last time round I did the word gregarious.
So here is my WOW for this week:
Part of Speech
- A child of the slums who spends most of his or her time in the streets:
2. A contemptuous term applied to anyone regarded as having the unsavoury manners, morals, etc. sometimes associated with those living in filth, poverty, or squalor.
C19: (1855-60) gutter+ snipe: originally a name applied to the common snipe (the bird the common snipe, which picks food out of gutters – and well suited to the boggy marshlands around rivers like the Thames in Victorian London) then to a person who gathered refuse from gutters in city streets.
Synonyms: urchin, street urchin, ragamuffin, waif, stray, outcast, orphan, scarecrow, gamin (dated)
archaic: mudlark, scapegrace, street Arab (offensive) wastrel, tetterdemalion
Use in a Sentence:
For this, I just have a short story:
Mrs. Rowbotham scowled as she walked into the classroom full of overexcited adolescents. Teaching English to this lot on Bonfire Night was going to be well nigh impossible. Normally well behaved, today, all they could think about was how many fireworks they’d got.
‘Silence!’ she growled as she reached her desk. Silence was instant, as she expected. No one argued with her. ‘You’re behaving like a room full of guttersnipes! And I don’t like mannerless brats in my room.’
Matthew Henderson’s hand shot up, the cheeky grin on his face blatant. This cocky lad always considered himself spokesman for the group.
‘Take that ridiculous grin off your face before you speak, Matthew, or you’ll be seeing me at the end of school.’
The grin instantly dropped. ‘Sorry Miss. I just wanted to ask what a guttersnipe was.’
Mrs. Rowbotham sighed. ‘Does anyone here know what a guttersnipe is …? Well,’ she continued after a negative response, ‘guttersnipe is an old word that can mean someone – generally a child – who spends his or her life in the streets. It could refer to the homeless and destitute, or to someone who lives in an area of squalid housing. It’s often associated with the filthy conditions of the Victorian slums. But we still see the word used today, often in a derogatory way, referring to people living on the streets in many areas around the world. Their situation is often very sad…
We can also use the word to mean someone with shockingly bad manners – like you rowdy lot today!’
Jenny Marsden’s hand shot up. ‘I saw a great film once… about a Victorian woman called Eliza who came from the slums o’ London. Filthy she were; never ’ad a bath. She sold flowers in the streets to get money t’ buy food –’
‘And this ’ere rich bloke comes along and decides to make ’er into a lady,’ Danny Roberts cut in, ‘with posh manners un’ all. Right good film, that were.’
The buzz of agreement sounded and Mrs. Rowbotham nodded approvingly. ‘Ah, so now we’re getting somewhere. The film is undoubtedly ‘My Fair Lady’, based on a play called ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw – although it’s set in Edwardian times, Jenny, a little later than Victorian era. A young, ill-brought-up woman, who lived in the slums of London… Though she wasn’t completely destitute, her appearance and uncouth manners provide a good example of a guttersnipe.
Mrs. Rowbottom smiled as she lifted a set of books down from the shelf. Though not the lesson she’d planned, ‘Pygmalion’ would do very nicely for a day like Bonfire Night.
‘Please Miss, can I be Professor ’iggins….’ Matthew’s voice rang out.
(I’m quite fond of Professor Higgins. I was a Higgins for 23 years before I got married – my dad was Thomas Higgins. The Yorkshire kids I taught at that time always dropped the ‘h’, so I was invariably Miss ’iggins to them!)
If you’d like to view more interesting words, visit Heena’s Page