• lollapalooza •
Pronunciation: lah-lê-pê-lu-zê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: (Slang) A corker, a beaut, a knockout, something outstanding of its kind, something fine and grand.
Notes: This is a pure Americanism right down to its obscure origin. If you are British, it's OK to spell this word lallapaloosa and pronounce it [læ-lê-pê-lu-sê]. Since it is more widely spoken than written, it has suffered a wide variety of spellings. In the Second World War this word was the shibboleth for distinguishing friendly Filipinos from the Japanese enemy. When asked to repeat today's Good Word, rorraparooza was the wrong answer.
In Play: Anything outstanding in its class can be anointed a lollapalooza: "When his wife threw the frying pan at him, Dick Tate got a lollapalooza of a knot on his head." This meaning fits failures, too: "Hank Epanki made a lollapalooza of an accounting mistake that caused the company he worked for, Cook, Books, and Hyde, to go out of business."
Word History: In his book The American Language, H. L. Mencken claimed that today's word originated in the French expression allez-fusil "forward the musket". This word became common in Ireland as allay-foozee "a fine fellow" after French troops landed in Ireland in 1798. This word somehow then morphed into lollapalooza according to Mencken. Others have surmised that it began as a rhyming compound based on lulu in the sense of, "She's a lulu of a singer!" This word may be a commonization of the name of Lulu Hurst, a girl who seemed to have magic powers. This Lulu barnstormed the US from 1883 to 1885 and in the process became one of the most famous people in America. Lulu entered the language with its present meaning about 1886. Two reasonable speculations without a hint of evidence to support either. (Susanne Russell should be thanked heartily for suggesting today's lollapalooza of a Good Word.)