Everybody has to be from somewhere – and that includes words.
I once heard a co-worker complain about a fellow-employee, that, “He’s a cheap bastard. Always wants everything buckshee.” I got the meaning from context – free, at no cost – but buckshee?? Where did that come from?
At first I thought that it was from India, something from one of its 40+ languages and dialects. However, research revealed that it was originally Arabic, from Persia – Iran, as we call it today. It came to English as baksheesh – meaning a tip, a bribe, or a charitable donation – nouns which my rustic speaker had mispronounced into an adjective.
Recently, I thought I’d found its camel-chasing cousin. Out of a sandstorm of definition confusion, and, from context, meaning the same as baksheesh and the term lagniappe, rode the word
Kickshaw – rickshaw – buckshee…. Surely it came from the East, but NO!
Kickshaw – a tidbit or delicacy, especially one served as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre.
something showy but without value; trinket; a trifle, something a little extra.
It rowed across The Channel from France, and wormed its way into the English language about 1590/1600 as a badly pronounced back-formation of the French term quelque chose. In French, it just means “something,” but in English, it has come to mean ‘something extra/something special.”
Next week we’ll be visiting its modern-day Yiddish relative, tchotchke. Bring an appetite and your credit card. There’ll be as many latkes – potato pancakes – as you can eat. 😀