Tuesday, June 19, 2007

mooch

This past weekend was my hen weekend, if one can call anything so civili{s/z}ed a 'hen weekend'. There were no blow-up dolls or L-plates, no public drunkenness, and only a tiny bit of silly headgear. We went to the Cotswolds and ate nice food and went to artists' open houses and had a mooch (a)round the shops. In fact, mooch became the word of the weekend, due to a cross-cultural communication failure.

You see, my friend the Recyclist was there, since she's in the UK for a month, mixing with my UK friends who kept saying things like After lunch we could go mooch round the shops. So, after figuring out what they meant, she explained the meaning of mooch in AmE, and somehow by Sunday it seemed that every tenth sentence had mooch in it.

The OED defines the BrE sense as 'to loaf, skulk, sneak' or 'an act of skulking, loafing, scrounging'. In AmE, I might use scrounge in this sense, though it seems more negative than mooch. Another AmE possibility is troll, as in:
Does this reporter just troll around town looking for the hot cockroach stories? (from comments in Dave Barry's blog)

If you're running in the shoes you had before Brangelina, or kickboxing in the same pink Pumas you troll the mall in, it's time for a new pair my friend. (from Mommies with Style)
The more common sense of mooch in AmE is (from the OED): 'To sponge on or off a person; to go about scrounging.' The noun form of this may be mooch or moocher. The OED doesn't mark the verb sense as AmE, though it didn't seem very familiar to my fellow hens, but the noun sense ('a beggar, a scrounger') is marked as Chiefly U.S.. The verb can be used transitively as well, as in:
Can I mooch some of your chips (AmE: French fries)?
This sense of mooch, in fact this sentence of mooch, was used with gusto by speakers of every dialect when Sunday lunch came (a)round. Upon learning this sense of mooch, my BrE-speaking friends claimed to have 'a-ha!' moments concerning the song Minnie the Moocher, but the lyrics to the song do not make a lot of her mooching.

Thanks to my lovelylovely friends for a lovelylovely weekend!

16 comments:

dearieme said...

"she was a red hot hoochie coocher" - a gem.

Chris said...

"Troll" to me has a very different connotation to BrE "mooch", the latter being pretty much aimless while the former indicates purpose.

Ginger Yellow

strawman said...

I think most BrE speakers would know troll, in the troll around town context, as gay slang or Polari, made familiar by Julian and Sandy in the 1960s BBC radio show Round the Horne.

martinn said...

I’ve always understood ‘mooching’ to be a verb of movement, similar to wandering or strolling.

Having grown up listening to 'Round the Horne' in the 60s, I always smile when I hear Americans use the word ‘troll’. It appears to be used where Brits would say 'trawl' (from the commercial fishing technique).

Cathy said...

Yes, troll is a fishing term and in AmE it implies that there's a purpose behind the journey (searching for fish or cockroach stories or some list of items at the mall). I have the impression that mooching round the shops is more like window shopping (which can of course be much more involved than looking in windows, and might actually involve some buying, but not setting out with a specific list of items to acquire.)

Interface said...

OK, so what about the nickname "Moochie". As in Kevin Corcoran of numerous Disney films, The Shaggy Dog, frinstance?

Interface said...

And for those intereseted in Polari and Julian and Sandy, there is some more information over at World Wide Words

lynneguist said...

I take the point that trolling is more goal-directed than mooching, but both have a 'skulking' quality to them I think. Can anyone think of a better AmE alternative?

jhm said...

If you were saying that AmE 'scrounge' has a negative connotation, I have to disagree slightly. Maybe it's particular to New England (or even more local), but I use 'scrounge' in situations where one makes due with what's close to hand, instead of perhaps getting a 'boughten,' or band new, non-homespun, so to speak. In this, I find 'scrounge to be slightly more positive than negative.

Doug Sundseth said...

I recently saw somewhere that "troll" and "trawl" have very different etymologies, which my dictionary seems to support. "Trawl" is said to come from the Dutch "tragelen", while "troll" comes from ME.

Trawling involves fishing by pulling a net behind a boat, while trolling involves dangling a line from a slowly moving boat. If you've ever gone trolling, both the "wandering around aimlessly" and "making inflammatory comments in hopes of inciting an intemperate response" senses of the word make sense as metaphors.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with JHM that scrounge, at least in my part of new england, is not a negative thing. You'd scrounge in your cupboard for ingredients for dinner if you didn't want to (or couldn't easily) go shopping, for example. It's a resourceful sort of thing.

M said...

Here is a website with "mooch" in the title: http://bookmooch.com/

Best wishes for your upcoming wedding. I wish you every happiness.

cigalechanta said...

Hi I live in Boston(USA), and growing up a mooch was simply one who didn't pay for anything. They sponged on others

cigalechanta said...

P.S. A troll on the travel sites I visit like Fodors, is a poster who signs in on another name to start trouble , give false informmation orto attack another poster

Tony said...

Here in Australia, "mooch" can be used either way - to hang or loiter about, or to skulk or sneak or get around without paying.

I tend to use it in the less perjorative way, as hanging around with no particular purpose in kind.

In Australia (and New Zealand too), we also have a great word, "bludge". This can mean many things, including being lazy, scrounging off other people, evade responsibility etc. To "bludge around" would be to hang about doing not very much. We call unemployment benefits the "dole". Someone who seeks benefits without really trying to get work is a "dole bludger". When I worked as a radio journalist in England some years ago, I wrote "dole bludger" in a story, and no-one in the newsroom knew what it meant.

emb said...

My wife and I (BrE speakers) certainly use mooch in the "scrounge" sense. Particularly with reference to cats who appear from nowhere the second you lift a chicken sandwich to your mouth and hover around mewing as if you had been starving them for a fortnight.

Can also be applied to children, although for some reason we tend to use snaffle/snaffler in this context.