• whiskey •
Pronunciation:[h]wis-kee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: An alcoholic liquor distilled from grain (barley, rye, corn) and containing 40-50% ethyl alcohol.
Notes: The plural of today's Good Word is whiskeys. It has a variant spelled without the E, whisky. The plural of this variant is whiskies. Either spelling comes with two seldom heard or seen adjectives, whiskeyed or whiskied, and whiskeyish or whiskyish. Either set of adjectives means "soaked in or tainted with whiskey".
In Play: We have conjured up many excuses for drinking whiskey: "Jim Beam claims to have been fighting a cold with whiskey for twenty years, because his father told him that whiskey was the best cure for that ailment." (Should it take twenty years?) My spellchecker doesn't like any of the four adjectives mentioned in the Notes, but the Oxford English Dictionary does: "I can't come home from the bar all whiskeyed up, because my wife always meets me at the door."
Word History: Today's Good Word shares its origin with English water, the Proto-Indo-European root, wod-/wed-/ud- "water, wet". English reaped the benefits of all three of the original word's forms. The O-variant, wod-, went into the making of water, with the addition of the ubiquitous suffix -er. The bare E-variant became wet in English. The way English came by the third variant, ud-, was a bit more serpentine. Gaelic chose the ud- root with the suffix -skio attached, from which it produced usque "water". Whiskey is a shortened form of usquebaugh from the Scottish (or Irish) Gaelic phrase uisge beatha "water of life". This expression followed the example of Latin aqua vitae "water of life", still alive in all the Scandinavian languages as akvavit. Finally, as mentioned in the Good Word hogwash, the Russian word for "water" is voda. Vodka is a diminutive of this word, basically meaning "a small water". How's that for a euphemism? (Let's all raise a glass of the water of life to Eric Berntson for his recommendation of today's first-rate Good Word.)