The Toad's Words

Excursus #22

Well, well, well! The Toad has some female readers out there that thought Toad #21 was a bit one-sided. I didn't hear them complaining when we did codger and curmudgeon in #17. But since I listen to my readers, I will attempt to do a one-sided Toad using male descriptive words, but not this time. 

Right now my mind is on Meredith Willson's The Music Man. I am a lover of The Music Man because I like the fast paced and witty dialog. However, there are a few terms and expressions used in the show that caused me to run to my dictionary and my encyclopedia. I have written a short glossary, which can be found on my web site Also, as you have probably guessed from this preamble, I am dedicating Toad #22 to words from The Music Man.

Brazen, adjective

Pronounced bray zen, accent on bray.

Hardened in shamelessness. Marked by audacious boldness, flagrant contemptuousness. From the Old English braesen meaning made of brass.  

“Fred thought Andy was a bit brazen when he asked the pushy sales clerk if she sold brass balls.”


Hifalutin', adjective

Pronounced hi (as in high) fa (a long long way to run) lute in, the accent is on the hi (sometimes on the lute).

The more hifalutin' people often spell it “highfaluting” or “highfalutin.” Some less hifalutin' people spell it “hifoluting.”

No matter the spelling, it means the same thing - pretentious, over-blown, pompous, or bombastic.

Several references contend this is a purely American expression that was first used in print around 1850 and that its origin comes from "high-flown" or "highflier." It is generally thought to have referred to the puffed-up rhetoric used by Fourth of July speakers. One source (more hifalutin' than the others) says it may have come from "high fluting" where "fluting" refers to the fancy decorative work found at the tops of columns.

“Elbert didn’t want to eat at a hifalutin’ restaurant that required men to wear ties.”


Lollygag, verb

Some people spell this word as "lallygag" and it is spelled in The Music Man as "lolligag."

To dawdle, to goof off, to fool around.

"Lollygag," like "hifalutin," seems to show up in American English around the middle of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, "lollygag" originally meant "to fool around" in the sense of kissing, caressing, etc.

“The doorman of the hifatulin’ clothing store on Rodeo Drive called the police on the kids that were lollygagging around the store windows.”


Dawdle, verb

Pronounced daw dull, accent on daw.

This is an action verb meaning to take more time than is necessary, to linger, to waste time, to dally or loiter. Hence, lollygaggers tend to dawdle a lot. It also can mean to move aimlessly in a lackadaisical manner.

The Oxford English Dictionary (second edition) (OED) says that the word came into common use around 1775 and at first chiefly in feminine use. You can make of that which you will; I am not going to touch it after Toad #21. Apparently “diddle,” “dally,” and “delay” are all variants.

Dawdle can also be used as a noun meaning one who dawdles. The OED says especially a dawdling girl or woman.

“Debbie dawdled so much in the clothing store, that her husband did not have time to lollygag in the tool store.”


Libertine, noun and adjective

Pronounced lib ur teen, with the accent on lib.

In modern usage it means a debauched, licentious, or immoral man. Meredith Willson’s famous Trouble in The Music Man uses it as an adjective – “libertine men and scarlet women.” So, basically a libertine is the male version of a scarlet woman.

It is interesting that this word comes from the Roman “libertus” meaning a man who has been freed from slavery. However, in sixteenth century Europe, there was a freethinking sect known as the Libertines. The Libertines believed that the whole universe was God and therefore man is God and hence he cannot sin.  There was no distinction between good and evil so there were no moral codes.

“Dawdling and lollygagging alone did not make Jake a libertine man, but the brazen things he did behind the smokehouse with the hifalutin’ rich girls certainly did.”  


Disclaimer: The author, his lollygagging advisors, his family, and his dawdling editors in no way take responsibility for brazen comments as a result of the libertine or hifalutin’ use Toad’s Words. 

Revised: September 06, 2000

Copyright © by Michael L. VanBlaricum, 04 September 2000.

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