Word monger of the week

Once upon a time you bought your fish from a fish monger, your hardware from an ironmonger, and your apples from a costermonger (a coster was an old variety of apple). This was as long ago as eight hundred years.

Monger evolved from the Old English word mangere, which meant a dealer or trader. As time went by, it started to take on an overtone of being petty and disreputable (probably because of its connection with street peddlers) and became used most often in a derogatory sense. It has had a very keen usage in this insulting sense for four hundred years. New usages are invented in all ages.

Spenser used warmonger in his poem the Faerie Queene (completed in 1596). A war monger is someone who encourages war. Fashionmonger was used about the same time (equivalent to our modern fashionista, someone overly devoted to fashion), as was meritmonger, which referred to a do-gooder. There was even word monger for a writer who uses words pretentiously or without regard for their meanings.

Scare monger (and also fearmonger) comes from the late 19th century. Scaremongering when used in advertising is called shockvertising where it is often used in an attempt to change undesirable behaviours such as binge drinking or smoking by showing their worst effects. The 19th century also had the first uses of rumour monger and gossip monger.

The latest of the mongers is ecomonger. It is a derisory term used to describe greenies who push an extreme environmental agenda. In the great climate change debate the the extremes are represented by climate change sceptics on one side and ecomongers on the other. The rest of us sit somewhere in between, hoping that the apocalypse is not coming too quickly and that the politicians really can do something to encourage consumers to reduce their energy use.