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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:10 pm

• akimbo •

Pronunciation: ê-kim-bo • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: (Standing) with the hands resting on the hips and elbows bent and sticking out.

Notes: This adjective is unusual in two respects: it follows its noun, rather than preceding it, and it is used mostly in one expression "with arms akimbo": She stood with arms akimbo, daring him to approach her. There are no nouns, adverbs, or verbs associated with this word; it is the purest of lexical orphans.

In Play: The arms akimbo posture usually connotes truculence or defiance: "Mama's standing at the door calling you with arms akimbo. You're in trouble." (You hear kids saying it all the time.) This connotation has led to a wider range of usages where truculence or defiance alone are intended: "Courtney's eyes went akimbo when she saw her husband talking with his old girlfriend."

Word History: It might seem that we are dealing with a foreign borrowing, Native American or Japanese. Not so. This Good Word is as English as they come. As early as the beginning of the 15th century people were standing in kenebowe. In this phrase we see bow but kene should mean "knee", if anything. The original spelling suggests that English might have borrowed it from a related language, Old Norse, where i keng boginn meant "bent in a curve". However it started, it eventually dissolved into a kenbow and, finally to today’s odd little offering from alphaDictionary.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Wed Oct 26, 2005 10:51 am

This must be a really fascinating word for almost everybody, since you see its history everywhere. As for me, I'm kinda tired of it.

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M. Henri Day
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Oct 30, 2005 5:21 pm

Ah, BD, there may yet be more to say on this matter than, to mix metaphors and body parts freely, meets the eye ! If one checks out the Old Norse cognate to today's English «elbow», one gets the following :
al(n)bogi, ǫlnbogi, av aln, ǫln 'underarm' og boge, bue

The «bo» in «akimbo» pretty obviously refers to the elbow, which is rather obvious itself in that posture. Alas, I find myself unable to trace that «kim», but I feel rather sure that it has little to do with knees, as that would describe a very different posture indeed !...


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