minnow at minnow at
Wed May 14 18:36:35 EDT 2003

Anna wrote:

>        I had a brief glance at the OED entry for Greenhorn as I was
>curious to see that they defined the possible Mug root of Muggins &
>Juggins as greenhorn (though if you look at the entry for that meaning of
>Mug the words fool & simpleton creep in as well. Obviously popular words
>down OED way!),

I nouned the verb briefly there and read that as 'fool and simpleton
creep', which is a grand insult!  :-)

>and that is a term defined originally in the 15th century
>as young cattle with green horns, and then in the 17th centiry entered the
>wider sense of inexperienced person & following on from that as someone
>who is easy to take advantage of...

Do cattle really have actual green coloured horns when they're young?  Coo!
'Green' meaning 'new' or 'young' turns up in Hoccleve and Lydgate ('How
that this child, greene and tendre off age'), almost certainly pre-1400.
I'm amazed it was as late as the seventeenth century that it came to mean
an inexperienced person, 'green in years' and so forth had been around a
while by then.  (Well, 'grene in yeeres', probably, but wotthehell.)

I'd be prepared to hazard a small sum on the proposition that a greenhorn
may have meant a sexually inexperienced male, too.  There's a lot of coded
bawdy meaning hovering around the word green.  Gentlemen, if you ever buy a
green dress for a lady's birthday present, just don't tell anyone you gave
her a green gown!


To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list