Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Chalk It Up to Screevers

Being a word nerd, I’m always delighted to come across a new word, especially one that replaces a bunch of words with one word.




noun Chiefly British .

an artist who draws pictures on sidewalks, as with colored chalks, earning a living from the donations of spectators and passersby.

1875–80;  earlier screeve  (v.) (< Polari ) < Italian scrivere  to write (< Latin scrībere ) + -er1
I am not sure on the verb forms. “I scree.” “You all scree.” “We all scree.”  Something like that.
Besides blowing bubbles with the grandkiddo, we do like to scree upon the driveway when she visits us.  I get those big old fat chalks and we plant pastel flowers, birds, and suns all over. My first little screever was the Girlie Girl, our resident artist (she inherited the MEPA’s genes on that one). Our first house had a brick patio built all around the house, which made for a great trike raceway when the kiddos were way younger.  When the GG wasn’t going gangbusters around the bricks with her brothers she liked to chalk draw.  Her favorites? Three guesses.  No, not flowers.  Nope, not unicorns.  Not even trees and suns and clouds.  Spiders.  She loved to draw spiders.  She’d draw a circle and wiggle out some legs.  All over the place.  If they weren’t in friendly pastels it would have been kind of creepy to walking across an arachnid festival.
Other screevers of note: Bert from the Mary Poppins movie.  It would be fun to jump into a painting for an outing, wouldn’t it?

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17 thoughts on “Chalk It Up to Screevers

  1. Love this! I like finding new words too! Thanks for this one!

  2. These days Screeving is a dying art, I do recall reading Orwell trying it once poorly and being moved on by Police…that sort of thing always amuses me.

  3. Upon reading the definition, this is the first thing that came to mind:

    Glad there are no spiders here.

  4. Good word… It goes back further than 1875 though. There is a reference in 1842 to”cadgers screeving”. The practice had a closer relationship to the Italian verb too at that time, as the ‘cadgers’ would write rather than draw. Favourite expressions drawn in beautiful calligraphy incuded: “Hunger is a sharp thorn and biteth keen”, “He that pitieth the poor lendeth to the Lord and shall be repaid” and “I cannot get work and to beg I am ashamed”

  5. I didn’t know they had a term for that. I would’ve just said “sidewalk artist”.

    • They probably do anyway since screever sounds misleading. I think window washer when I hear screever. Maybe because it sounds like squeege. So are window washers squeegers? *loses an hour in Googling possibilities*

  6. Pam, I immediately thought of Bert 🙂 Also the artist that’s always getting emailed around: Julian Beever. And I just googled and discovered even more! Amazing talent here:

    http ://www .boredpanda. com /5-most-talented-3d-sidewalk-chalk-artists/

  7. I used to think you really could jump into a sidewalk drawing, if it was the right drawing. I’m sure I believed it for a year or two!

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