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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:41 pm

• callithumpian •

Pronunciation: kæl-ê-thêm-pee-ên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Related to a mock serenade made by banging pots and pans together, as in a wedding sendoff. 2. Related to a noisy, discordant band or parade; loud, noisy and discordant.

Notes: Today's Good Word is the adjective accompanying callithump "a noisy, discordant display". In parts of the Midwest a callithump parade is a children's mummer's parade, usually held on the Fourth of July, with prizes for the best costumes. This word may, in fact, refer to any noisy party, such as a callithumpian band of New Year's revelers. The adjective may be used as a noun referring to a member of a callithump or callithumpian band.

In Play: This is a word, because of its rare usage, that has a very vague meaning or several meanings. Its basic meaning is a discordant band or parade of revelers: "It was the most callithumpian parade that I have ever seen on the Fourth of July." However, since the meaning is vague at best, we may use it for any group reveling loudly and discordantly: "When they throw a callithumpian party upstairs, you can thump the ceiling with a broomstick handle all you want, but they won't be able to hear it."

Word History: Today's Good Word is probably a fanciful construction originally designating a society of social reformers that disrupted political rallies and elections, gallithumpians by name. This word would seem to be made up of galli "alarming, frightening" + thump + -ian, an adjective suffix. The combining form galli- would be based on dialectal gally "to alarm", as in dialectal gallicrow "scarecrow" and gallinipper "large mosquito". This dialectal variant gally is, no doubt, related to Old English agælwan "to scare", but is not a historical derivation of it. Thump, of course, fits the semantic pattern perfectly. It is an old onomatopoeic (imitative) word with cousins in all the Germanic languages.
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