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12 Old, Cheap Words for the Stingy

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We all have one friend who, when the bill arrives, is MIA. That friend, if they can ever be located, doesn’t believe in tipping either: They’re a true skinflint who holds their money in a death grip. Though skinflint and tightwad are terrific words, there are quite a few synonyms and adjectives sprinkled throughout the history of English. Even when the subject matter is parsimonious, the lexicon is always giving and ready to buy another round.

1. DRY-FIST

Many stingy words mention the hand or fist, and this one equates dryness with cheapness. The Oxford English Dictionary examples include mentions of “filthy dry-fisted knights” and “dryfisted patrons.” Today we’d talk about cheap bastards or miserly garbage people.

2. MINGY

This unpleasant-sounding word rhymes with stingy and may be a blend with mean. Mingy has been around just over 100 years and is used in an absolutely juicy insult from a 1912 letter by poet Rupert Brooke: “I called you a mingy and coprologous Oxford poetaster.” Rarely, mingy can also be a noun, as seen in a reprimand from 1939’s To Love and to Cherish by Michael Egan: “Don't be a mingy, father; they only cost a shilling.”

3. NARROW-SOULED

Of course, narrow-minded is a common word for someone with a one-track mind, but this word applies to someone with an unusually svelte soul. Narrow-souled has referred to various types of pettiness since the 1600s, including penny-pinching. At times, narrow all by itself has also meant stingy, if you’re looking for a new euphemism for an embarrassing companion.

4. PARTAN-HANDED

Partan was originally a word for a crab in the 1400s, and in the 1800s it evolved into an insult for people who were a bit, well, crabby. From there, it spawned a variety of insults such as partan-faced and partan-handed, which suggests a rather specific sort of closed-fistedness.

5. PURSE-BOUND

The idea is that your purse is so tightly wrapped—perhaps with ropes, chains, and crazy glue—that it’s never opening again. The first known use, by playwright James Shirley in 1653, includes a preview of the next term: “I may Tell you, my Father is a little costive, Purse-bound, his pension cannot find me tooth-picks.”

6. COSTIVE

The first uses of costive, from around 1400, refer to a constrictive state of affairs far beyond the scope of this list: the costive are constipated. By the 1600s, this word for hard, unyielding bowels had spread to vicious, close-fisted tightwads. Costive could also refer to any type of ungenerous behavior, as seen in a 1606 use by George Chapman in the amusingly titled Sir Gyles Goosecappe: “Is your Lorde Costiue of laughter, or laxatiue of laughter?” Apparently the bowel-y origins of this word were not forgotten.

7. SAVE-ALL

This mostly self-explanatory word has had a few meanings over the years, but in the 1700s it meant the opposite of a spend-all. Poet John Keats used the term in an 1820 letter that offered an unflattering description: “There is old Lord Burleigh, the high-priest of economy, the political save-all.”

8. AND 9. CHINCHERD AND CHINCHY

Today chintzy is still used as a synonym for stingy, but there are some older relatives with similar meanings: chincherd (a noun) and chinchy (an adjective). They all derive from chinch, an adjective for tight-fisted behavior since the 1400s.

10. SNUDGE

In the 1500s and 1600s, this was a common word for a miser. Snudge can also be a verb: You’re snudging if you’re holding your wallet tight in the manner of Ebenezer Scrooge. This word demands a revival. When someone stiffs us on a bill, we should say they snudged us or acted like a total snudge.

11. AND 12. CLUSTERFIST AND CLOSE-FIST

First found in the 1600s, clusterfist can refer to a few types of disappointing individuals. In one sense, cluster means clumsy, and a clusterfist is a type of oaf or boor. But cluster can also mean closed, and this is a synonym for another tightwaddy term, close-fist. This 1655 use by Charles Sorel describes a disgusting lack of generosity in the important realm of cake: “My owne cakes..of which he never proffered me so much as the least crum, so base a Cluster-fist was he.”

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Little Women
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Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of the world's most beloved novels, and now—nearly 150 years after its original publication—it's capturing yet another generation of readers, thanks in part to Masterpiece's new small-screen adaptation. Whether it's been days or years since you've last read it, here are 10 things you might not know about Alcott's classic tale of family and friendship.

1. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE LITTLE WOMEN.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Louisa May Alcott was writing both literature and pulp fiction (sample title: Pauline's Passion and Punishment) when Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her about writing a book for girls. Alcott said she would try, but she wasn’t all that interested, later calling such books “moral pap for the young.”

When it became clear Alcott was stalling, Niles offered a publishing contract to her father, Bronson Alcott. Although Bronson was a well-known thinker who was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, his work never achieved much acclaim. When it became clear that Bronson would have an opportunity to publish a new book if Louisa started her girls' story, she caved in to the pressure.

2. LITTLE WOMEN TOOK JUST 10 WEEKS TO WRITE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott began writing the book in May 1868. She worked on it day and night, becoming so consumed with it that she sometimes forgot to eat or sleep. On July 15, she sent all 402 pages to her editor. In September, a mere four months after starting the book, Little Women was published. It became an instant best seller and turned Alcott into a rich and famous woman.

3. THE BOOK AS WE KNOW IT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TWO PARTS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

The first half was published in 1868 as Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The Story Of Their Lives. A Girl’s Book. It ended with John Brooke proposing marriage to Meg. In 1869, Alcott published Good Wives, the second half of the book. It, too, only took a few months to write.

4. MEG, BETH, AND AMY WERE BASED ON ALCOTT'S SISTERS.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Meg was based on Louisa’s sister Anna, who fell in love with her husband John Bridge Pratt while performing opposite him in a play. The description of Meg’s wedding in the novel is supposedly based on Anna’s actual wedding.

Beth was based on Lizzie, who died from scarlet fever at age 23. Like Beth, Lizzie caught the illness from a poor family her mother was helping.

Amy was based on May (Amy is an anagram of May), an artist who lived in Europe. In fact, May—who died in childbirth at age 39—was the first woman to exhibit paintings in the Paris Salon.

Jo, of course, is based on Alcott herself.

5. LIKE THE MARCH FAMILY, THE ALCOTTS KNEW POVERTY.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Bronson Alcott’s philosophical ideals made it difficult for him to find employment—for example, as a socialist, he wouldn't work for wages—so the family survived on handouts from friends and neighbors. At times during Louisa’s childhood, there was nothing to eat but bread, water, and the occasional apple.

When she got older, Alcott worked as a paid companion and governess, like Jo does in the novel, and sold “sensation” stories to help pay the bills. She also took on menial jobs, working as a seamstress, a laundress, and a servant. Even as a child, Alcott wanted to help her family escape poverty, something Little Women made possible.

6. ALCOTT REFUSED TO HAVE JO MARRY LAURIE.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

Alcott, who never married herself, wanted Jo to remain unmarried, too. But while she was working on the second half of Little Women, fans were clamoring for Jo to marry the boy next door, Laurie. “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life," Alcott wrote in her journal. "I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”

As a compromise—or to spite her fans—Alcott married Jo to the decidedly unromantic Professor Bhaer. Laurie ends up with Amy.

7. THERE ARE LOTS OF THEORIES ABOUT WHO LAURIE WAS BASED ON.


Frank T. Merrill, Public Domain, Courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

People have theorized Laurie was inspired by everyone from Thoreau to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1865, while in Europe, Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, whom Alcott nicknamed Laddie. The flirtation between Laddie and Alcott culminated in them spending two weeks together in Paris, alone. According to biographer Harriet Reisen, Alcott later modeled Laurie after Laddie.

How far did the Alcott/Laddie affair go? It’s hard to say, as Alcott later crossed out the section of her diary referring to the romance. In the margin, she wrote, “couldn’t be.”

8. YOU CAN STILL VISIT ORCHARD HOUSE, WHERE ALCOTT WROTE LITTLE WOMEN.

Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts was the Alcott family home. In 1868, Louisa reluctantly left her Boston apartment to write Little Women there. Today, you can tour this house and see May’s drawings on the walls, as well as the small writing desk that Bronson built for Louisa to use.

9. LITTLE WOMEN HAS BEEN ADAPTED A NUMBER OF TIMES.

In addition to a 1958 TV series, multiple Broadway plays, a musical, a ballet, and an opera, Little Women has been made into more than a half-dozen movies. The most famous are the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring June Allyson (with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), and the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. Later this year, Clare Niederpruem's modern retelling of the story is scheduled to arrive in movie theaters. It's also been adapted for the small screen a number of times, most recently for PBS's Masterpiece, by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas.

10. IN 1980, A JAPANESE ANIME VERSION OF LITTLE WOMEN WAS RELEASED.

In 1987, Japan made an anime version of Little Women that ran for 48 half-hour episodes. Watch the first two episodes above.

Additional Resources:
Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography; Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women; Louisa May Alcott's Journals; Little Women; Alcott Film; C-Span; LouisaMayAlcott.org.

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Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Is Causing Another Explosive Problem: Laze
Mario Tama, Getty Images
Mario Tama, Getty Images

Rivers of molten rock aren't the only thing residents near Hawaii's Kilauea volcano have to worry about. Lava from recent volcanic activity has reached the Pacific Ocean and is generating toxic, glass-laced "laze," according to Honolulu-based KITV. Just what is this dangerous substance?

Molten lava has a temperature of about 2000°F, while the surrounding seawater in Hawaii is closer to 80°F. When this super-hot lava hits the colder ocean, the heat makes the water boil, creating powerful explosions of steam, scalding hot water, and projectile rock fragments known as tephra. These plumes are called lava haze, or laze.

Though it looks like regular steam, laze is much more dangerous. When the water and lava combine, and hot lava vaporizes seawater, a series of reactions causes the formation of toxic gas. Chloride from the sea salt mixes with hydrogen in the steam to create a dense, corrosive mixture of hydrochloric acid. The vapor forms clouds that then turn into acid rain.

Laze blows out of the ocean near a lava flow
USGS

That’s not the only danger. The lava cools down rapidly, forming volcanic glass—tiny shards of which explode into the air along with the gases.

Even the slightest encounter with a wisp of laze can be problematic. The hot, acidic mixture can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. It's particularly hazardous to those with breathing problems, like people with asthma.

In 2000, two people died in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from inhaling laze coming from an active lava flow.

The problem spreads far beyond where the lava itself is flowing, pushing the problem downwind. Due to the amount of lava flowing into the ocean and the strength of the winds, laze currently being generated by the Kilauea eruptions could spread up to 15 miles away, a USGS geologist told Reuters.

[h/t Forbes]

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