Thursday, 12 January 2012
Puny comes from the French puis né, meaning born afterwards. It was originally therefore meant to mean junior. That's why, in a British court, all but the most senior judge are called puisne judges; and, yes, puisne is pronounced in exactly the same way as puny.
So all younger children are punies. As a middle child I'm not quite sure how to take this.
A puny can also mean an absolute beginner, hence the line in Middleton*'s Revenger's Tragedy:
I see thou art but a puny in the subtle mystery of a woman.
I wish girls would stop saying that to me.