Word of the Day : November 12, 2016

facetious

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adjective fuh-SEE-shuss

Definition

1 : joking or jesting often inappropriately : waggish

2 : meant to be humorous or funny : not serious

Did You Know?

Facetious—which puzzle fans know is one of the few English words containing the vowels a, e, i, o, u in order—came to English from the Middle French word facetieux, which traces to the Latin word facetia, meaning "jest." Facetia seems to have made only one other lasting contribution to the English language: facetiae, meaning "witty or humorous writings or sayings." Facetiae, which comes from the plural of facetia and is pronounced \fuh-SEE-shee-ee\ or \fuh-SEE-shee-eye\, is a far less common word than facetious, but it does show up occasionally. For example, American essayist Louis Menand used it in his 2002 book American Studies to describe the early days of The New Yorker. "The New Yorker," he wrote, "started as a hectic book of gossip, cartoons, and facetiae."


Examples

"My proposal to tax estates heavily is neither entirely serious nor wholly facetious." — Martha Viehmann, The Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer, 17 Aug. 2016

"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a garbage man. I'm not being facetious or silly…. As a four-year-old, my room window faced the street, and I remember being mesmerized by these wild guys waking me up twice a week. They were raucous and loud, they yelled and threw things around with reckless abandon, they dangerously climbed on and hung off a large moving vehicle…." — Andy Nulman, quoted in The Globe and Mail, 11 Sept. 2016



Test Your Vocabulary

What "-ism" based on the name of a Charles Dickens character in The Pickwick Papers is used to describe an expression comprising a well-known quote followed by a facetious sequel, such as "'Everyone to his own taste,' said the old woman as she kissed the cow"?

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