• imbroglio •
Pronunciation: im-brol-yo • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A confused tangle or mess. 2. An embroilment, a complicated involvement, and entanglement.
Notes: Oh, boy! You have to watch the spelling on this one. Today's Good Word comes from Italian (see History), which does not use either [y] or [j] as a consonant in native words and has to make do with [gli]. Any time you see those 3 letters in an Italian word, it is pronounced [y]. Intaglio and seraglio are the only other words with this pronunciation commonly encountered in English.
In Play: As hard as it is for most of us to believe, some people see poetry in messy rooms: "Verna's room was a symphony of disarray that reached a
crescendo in an imbroglio of dirty clothes at the end of her bed." More often, however, you will hear today's word used to refer to entanglements of human relationships: "Both Nixon's and Clinton's presidencies were marred by imbroglios: Nixon's was in campaign financing and Clinton's involved a Whitehouse intern."
Word History: The history of today's word has been through a bit of an imbroglio itself. It was borrowed recently from Italian. It is related semantically to embroil, taken from the French embrouiller "to tangle, confuse", a cousin of Italian imbroglio. In fact, in Old English, broil meant "to brawl". It only began to surrender that meaning in Middle English when French brûler "to burn" was borrowed and converted into broil, now with its current sense of baking. (Chris Stewart, who, I am sure, avoids serious imbroglios, was the kind soul who suggested that we explore this Good Word.)