Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Daily Hump: Lackadaisical

WordHumper would like to extend warm wishes to once-frequent, now lackadaisical, contributor Caroline who celebrates her 30th birthday today. You may remember Caroline from classic WordHumper posts such as:

Penultimate Frisbee
The Hardworking Do-rag
Hump This: Heckle

Caroline has unexplicably decided to abandon wasting time on etymological musings and instead nurture her real career over at The Longstockings. Regardless, Happy Birthday.

Now back to business: lackadaisical. You may remember this word from when I used it in the first paragraph. It describes someone lacking spirit, languid, sans liveliness.

Michael Quinion, who basically created the concept of WordHumper years before I got around to it (but instead called it World Wide Words), humped lackadaisical back in June 2001:
It [Lackadaisical] owes its origin, strangely enough, to an old saying of regret or dismay, lack-a-day!, a shortened form of alack-a-day!. Alack dates back to medieval times, and probably comes from a dialect word lack that is variously interpreted as failure, fault, reproach, disgrace, or shame. So alack-a-day! originally meant "Shame or reproach to the day!" (that it should have brought this upon me). But over time it became weakened until it became no more than a vapid and vacuous cry when some minor matter went awry.
The Bard peppered a few of his works with alack-a-day, notably The Tragedie of King Lear ("Alacke, alacke the day") and Romeo & Juliet where the expression creates a parallel between the Nurse's reaction to Romeo's apparent death and Juliet's authentic expiration:
Nurse: A weladay, hee's dead, hee's dead, We are vndone Lady, we are vndone. Alacke the day, hee's gone, hee's kil'd, he's dead
Nurse: Shee's dead: deceast, shee's dead: alacke the day
On a side note, I intended to hump the word hickey today, but alack-a-day, its origin is unknown.

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:: posted by David, 8:24 AM


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