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SMARMY

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SMARMY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:48 pm

• smarmy •

Pronunciation: smah(r)-mi • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Slicked down, greasy, said especially of hair with too much tonic or oil on it. 2. Unctuous, oily, obsequious, ingratiatingly polite, perhaps with an overlay of feigned intelligence or sophistication.

Notes: Today's Good Word is one that has yet to make it to America. It is widely used in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries but Americans never hear or use it. It may be compared: smarmier, smarmiest, and its root may be used as a qualitative noun, smarm, the quality that makes something smarmy. If you prefer something a bit longer, try smarminess for the noun. I'm sure you won't regret it.

In Play: Have you ever wanted a term that would help you avoid brown-nosing, a far too common expression in the US? Here is how you do it: "Mel Pew always puts on that smarmy charm of his when a customer comes by." Of course, smarminess could conjure up admiration, too: "I don't see how she does it but Celia Feight can pull out one of her smarmy sales pitches and sell ice cubes to an Eskimo."

Word History: Today's word is the adjective from the verb smarm "to slick down, to make smooth with an oily substance". No one has any idea where the verb came from though its meaning and spelling strongly suggest a kinship with smear. It probably originated in a dialectal pronunciation of this word or perhaps as a blend of smear and some other word, maybe balm. This is, however, only speculation. (Today we thank Jeremy Busch for suggesting words of mysterious origins that, equally mysteriously, have not penetrated the [more or less] United States.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Mon Dec 18, 2006 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: SMARMY

Postby sluggo » Fri Dec 15, 2006 4:06 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote:
Notes: Today's Good Word is one that has yet to make it to America. It is widely used in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries but Americans never hear or use it.


Beg to be dickery, Doc. I've heard smarmy for years in USian, without explanation attached. Roget had it listed here in a 1995 edition...
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Postby Bailey » Fri Dec 15, 2006 8:49 pm

I use smarmy too.
mark me-too Bailey

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Postby skinem » Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:05 pm

Yup, used it and heard it myself. Doesn't "smarmy grin" just paint a real nice picture?
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Postby gailr » Fri Dec 15, 2006 9:40 pm

Smarmy is my longtime favorite for describing the combination of condescension and ingratiation.
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Postby tcward » Sat Dec 16, 2006 10:29 am

For some reason I think of New York (the city) and Chicago when I envision someone saying 'smarmy'. Could it be that the term is more likely used there than in other US locales?

Oh, and I could hear Frazier Crane and his brother Niles using that word easily... but then, they did have a British maid. I think.

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Postby Bailey » Sat Dec 16, 2006 11:21 am

Well, Tim, It could be said that smarmy is a bit contrived and affected a word, Frasier [I loved the show, don't get me wrong, here] was affected and pretentious, as was Niles [the whole premise of the show,btw], the British maid, was not. I think she might have used that word though. Frasier was set in Seattle, that smarmy little town in the west that boasts the original skid row[road]. Oh and I love Seattle too.

mark smar-my Bailey

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Postby sluggo » Sat Dec 16, 2006 8:50 pm

I wonder if the good Doctor meant to say that smarmy has yet to make it out of America (btw when we say 'America' do we mean to include Canada? México? Paraguay? Seems it should. Or is that too smarmy?)?

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Postby Perry » Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:52 am

I hope that fact that we all use the word smarmy doesn't [gasp] make us smarmy. :?
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