A NY Times article by Charlie LeDuff taught me a new word: “The bodies are then sent to the Frye Chapel and Mortuary in Brawley and tended by Francis Frye, an 86-year-old crosspatch.” My first assumption was that the word I’ve bolded was some arcane job description, but it turns out it means ‘a peevish, irascible person; a grouch’ (AHD). I like this word a lot, and intend to use it as a self-description when I get the chance: “Don’t mind me; I’m just an old crosspatch.”


  1. Michael Farris says

    Not a word I’d ever use, but I’ve read it often enough (don’t remember where) to recognize it easily.

  2. Crosspatch,
    draw the latch,
    sit by the fire and spin.
    Take a cup
    and drink it up
    and don’t let the neighbors in.

  3. I didn’t expect this post on Crosspatch to be about this word. It started out talking about mortuaries. I thought the word would be “funeralized” as in “he was funeralized last Friday.” Wonder if any of you have ever heard this one? I hear it frequently.

  4. My Dad frequently used this expression to describe me or my sister as children when we were grumpy. “Your sister is being a crosspatch, don’t encourage her”. I had never heard it used of an adult before (although come to that, I haven’t heard anyone use it in years. Dad’s visiting tomorrow, I must ask him about it now.)

  5. I keep being amazed that others seem never to have heard of words that are commonplace to me, but then I often find the words they use meaningless to me. A propos “crosspatch” a “mardy” child is sullen and whining, and has the “mulligrubs”. A dreamy self-absorbed child is “as daft as a brush”.

  6. Gavin: Those are all great! English is such a huge, endlessly renewed cornucopia — nobody can master, or even be aware of, everything it holds.
    stephen: I hope you’ll report back on what your dad says. For that matter, I should ask my dad if he knows it. (My wife does, and was surprised that I didn’t.)

  7. For my family, ‘daft as a brush’ means silly, foolish, or, indeed, ‘mad as a badger’.

  8. Some of my neighbors are fond of listening to a nationally syndicated show which features a roomfull of rednecks laughing boisterously, as if they were all partaking of the mary jane, putting on silly radio skits, calling strangers in prank, etc. One of the features in this show which I enjoy are rather thoughtful essays by an older gentleman–Robert Raeford (sic) who bills himself as a curmudgeon. Have any two of you discussed this word?
    By the by, from Memphis to Clarksville, Tennessee, to coastal Georgia, I’ve heard “mad as a tick,” “crazy as a tick.” Whereas in Maine I heard “crazy as a loon,” and “loony.”

  9. Talked to Dad. He asserts that it’s a word he’s always known and never given a second thought about. He’s a 66 year old New Zealander, Auckland-born and bred. By contrast my girlfriend is from Christchurch in the South Island and had never heard the word until now.
    I’m wondering if my paternal grandfather, who emigrated from London as a young man, introduced the word to the family vocabulary (he jumped ship in Sydney in the 30s, swam ashore with 5 quid in his pocket, lived under an assumed name for two years, and then headed to Auckland, where he was variously a psychiatric nurse, a grocer and a taxi driver. He’d got sick of being W G Grace’s office boy, but that’s another story).
    Dad also rang this evening to tell me that the Shorter OED has citations going back to the 18th century.

  10. Yeah, the first OED citation is a1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Crosspatch, a peevish Person.
    Your grandfather led quite a life!

  11. My family always used this word, often adding the rhyme shown above. I think maybe it was one of those words that had come along on the boat from England, and had somehow been passed down through the centuries along with the penchant for tea, and the weak chins.

  12. Beth: When I quoted that rhyme to Bonnie, she said she remembered it as well. I don’t know how I missed out on this bit of culture, but now I feel deprived!

  13. Maybe you just never heard the term because you weren’t one!

  14. … and things change, as every descriptivist knows.

  15. As common as “grump” in my Oregon family. Surprised how many people are unfamiliar with it!

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