Words: curmudgeon, n.

CLEVELAND AMORY, the elegant social historian of Boston, claimed that the city was a breeding-ground for curmudgeons. He himself returned to New York, and became one, "because it suddenly dawned on me, when I was reading in the paper about a woman wrestler, that being a curmudgeon was the last thing in the world that a man can be that a woman cannot be. Women can be irritating - after all, they are women - but they cannot be curmudgeons."

Politically incorrect, he is right. As Thomas Nashe put it, "they have breasts, but give no suck". Nimbly defined by Johnson as "an avarious churlish fellow; a miser; a niggard", the word curmudgeon has been around since 1577, but defies explanation. No ingenious solution - cur, coeur - passes muster.