Daily Archives: March 7, 2009

fracas

This word may occasion a quarrel between Brits and Americans over pronunciation, with Canadians caught in the middle as usual. On the British side, partial (but only partial!) obeisance to the French source, sounding like “frack off” minus the final [f] (if you’ve ever watched Battlestar Galactica you will recognize “frack off”); on the American side, a rhyme with “break us.” Either way, it’s not exactly a word of quietude. It calls to mind the friction, fractures, and ruckus caused when a flic finds a flack in flagrante delicto with his fickle filly. That fr – you can get fried with frustration from frittering your time with frauds and their French frippery. And whether it’s “ack” or “ache,” whether it’s “caw” or “cuss,” you’re unlikely to find this word motivating you to fruition of friendliness, or at least a fricassee, even though the opportunity is there, phonetically. As to the fight between US and UK, the irony is that the “purer” version, adhering (only somewhat) to the French, is adhering after all to an alteration. The French fracas came from Italian fracasso, meaning “make an uproar,” from fra (from Latin infra) as an intensifier or absolutizer and cassare meaning “break.” Smash things up, in other words. Throw the plates. All of them. As Rick Simon (played by Gerald McRaney) might have said, “Things are gonna get mighty western in here.”

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