This week’s Weird Word Wednesday is gauche. This word is somewhat common and not all that weird, but I find the etymology is interesting. While it’s a word I have used in French, I don’t remember ever using it in English. But maybe I have an idea for how I might use it…. Is there a weird word that you find… well, awkward? If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, gauche means “lacking social experience or grace.” Other meanings are crude or awkward. Gauche, in French, means “left,” but it can also mean awkward or clumsy.
The etymology of gauche includes “ties to old suspicions and negative associations relating to the left side and use of the left hand” (Merriam-Webster.com). Back in the day, left-handed people had to be careful or they could be tried as witches. Then again, many activities could pinpoint one as a witch. But it’s funny that we built a right-handed world and then labeled the left-handers “awkward.” And it’s also funny how words come to have meaning, and the meaning sticks. Forever.
Studying the word gauche and learning its origins doesn’t make me more likely to use it. In fact, I am less likely to use it now. You know the way the kids these days will respond to a situation with one word, “Awk-ward!” drawn out in a way to make the situation even more awkward? Maybe “gauche” would be an equally effective response in such a situation.
But upon further thought, the word’s monosyllabic briefness makes it a gauche alternative.
This week’s Weird Word Wednesday is gumshoe. This word came about in my life this week because of a new role I have taken on—that of a gumshoe. It was an unexpected shift, at best, but I am making the most of it. Is there a weird word that you have become entangled with recently? If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.
This week, I have unexpectedly become a gumshoe. This is an endeavor that came about quite by accident, but if I had been watching the signs, I would have seen it coming. I would have recognized that the advent of new technology would mean we would have to be on the lookout for lurking AI generated text in student papers. And with a tech savvy population, we should have known it would be sooner rather than later.
Gumshoe is a weird word for a sleuth. It reminds me of a sticky piece of chewing gum stuck to the sole of your shoe such that you can feel the slight stick with each step. So I investigated the etymology of the word because I was curious. From the Online Etymology Dictionary I read that gumshoe is a plainclothes detective, and the word originated in 1906, “from the rubber-soled shoes they wore (allowing stealthy movement).” These shoes were called gums or “rubber shoes” from 1863 or 1859, I couldn’t quite figure out which.
And now, the word makes a bit more sense. I can see these people sneaking around on their nearly silent shoes, looking for clues and evidence and missing persons.
As for my own sleuthing (is gumshoeing a word?)…. Never in my wildest imaginings did I see myself sleuthing out computer generated text in student writing. But sooner or later, it was bound to happen. I’m sure George Jetson predicted this (just like moving walkways and Zoom meetings) buried somewhere in those many episodes of sci-if cartoons. I guess I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.
I am sneaking in under the wire here with Weird Word Wednesday. I’m excited to share today’s word: Cattywampus. According to YourDictionary.com, cattywampus means “not lined up or not arranged correctly, or diagonally; in disarray, disorder, or askew.” Merriam-Webster also uses the term “kitty-corner” in the definition. Can you see yourself using this word? I think it would be a fun word to add to my vocabulary. What weird word makes you happy? If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.
My father always gave directions by drawing maps and using landmarks. He would sketch out directions while saying something like, “Drive north on Main Street and take a left right here after the white church….” I’m pretty sure my dad would have used the word cattywampus if it had been part of his vocabulary. “After you turn left, go about half a mile, and the store will be cattywampus to the Post Office.”
Personally, I think the other usage of cattywampus is also fantastic and one that I plan to use. Regularly. And often. In fact, as the new semester is beginning and I’m trying to get back into the daily routine of work and students and meetings and reports, my brain is all cattywampus. I am having trouble stringing my thoughts together in a logical manner. Thankfully, I know once we settle in, my thoughts will be back in order.
And there you go: cattywampus. I hope you find a way to use it soon!