Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: scurfy; scurvy, adj.

scurfy; scurvy, adj. “Scurfy” means “(of an organism) full of dandruff or similar white flakes occurring as a result of disease or parasites.” E.g.: “Right about now is the time to treat euonymus scale (the scurfy white stuff) on euonymus and pachysandra and other scale insects on mugo pines, lilacs, peach, plum and cherry trees.” Carol Bradford, “Sequence of Garden Events Remains the Same Year In, Year Out,” Post-Standard (Syracuse), 7 Apr. 2002, Garden §, at 26. “Scurvy” (= contemptible) is a metaphorical term expressing scorn. Typical of Elizabethan English, and now an archaism, it appears mostly in jocular contexts — e.g.: “If Dwayne Rudd does anything wrong, anything, which leads to the Brownies losing again, he will be fed to the Bengals. No, not those scurvy Cincinnati Bengals — the ones at the Cleveland zoo.” Jerry Greene, “Rudd’s Fine Excuse for Inexcusable Act,” Orlando Sentinel, 15 Sept. 2002, at D11. As a noun, “scurvy” denotes the disease, common among sailors up to the 19th century, brought on by a deficiency in vitamin C. The chief symptoms are spongy, bloody gums and loose teeth, as well as bloody mucous membranes. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “People get the language they deserve. The language is made by the people who use it, and they can unmake it too. If they are foolish and fatuous, their speech and writing will be foolish and fatuous and over time will shape the language itself so that it can perfectly express their folly and fatuity.” Kenneth G. Wilson, Van Winkle’s Return 171 (1987).
Scroll to Top