In a Word: Pawky

May 02, 2011|By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary.

This week's word: PAWKY

A good Scottish and northern English word, pawk, or "trick," gives us the modern English word pawky, slyly or dryly humorous, or shrewd and witty. Canny, while we're being Scottish, enters into it. It mainly appears in British English, but there is no reason that they should have a monopoly on the good stuff.

You can get a sense of it from an example in (a site you should know if you're at all interested in words): "The answer that I most usually got in the pawky Scottish manner, partly ironic and partly common sense, was: 'What would the poor English do without us?'"

Example: In Conan Doyle's "The Valley of Fear," Sherlock Holmes says, "You are developing a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself."

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