alexandra alger


A Waggish Aside

Waggish—I’ve seen this word twice recently, in two different articles, both in the context of political commentary. Politicians tend to invite mischievous humor, for obvious reasons (believe it or not, neither story was about Trump—or Palin or Cruz!).

Waggish! Meaning silly; humorous, in a mischievous, or facetious way. Why don’t I ever use this playful word?

Come to think of it, I don’t hear it much in conversation. I never heard it in conversation. Is “waggish” a part of anyone’s day-to-day vocabulary?  Is there somewhere someone cooing to her child, “Oh, you little wag!” Or flirtatiously: “What a waggish thing to say!” Or admonishingly: “No waggish comments when Mother gets here.”

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word “wag,” dating from the mid-sixteenth century, was a “person fond of making jokes.” The origin of the word is murky—it could be a shortening of a early-German word used to describe pranking children. My vote goes with what seems obvious—it’s based on the transitive verb, which was used to describe what dogs did with their tails as early as the mid-1400s. What’s more joyful (and possibly a sign of mischief-making) than a dog (I picture a Lab or Golden Retriever) wagging its tail?

That gives me an idea for a story….

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