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Grand Panjandrum
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Postby Slava » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:33 pm

Here is a missing GWotD:

Dr. Goodword wrote:

• cheeky •

Pronunciation: chee-kee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Impudent, presuming, audacious, mildly insolent.

Notes: Again today we have a word that finds itself used more in Britain than stateside. This adjective is derived from cheek in the sense of "impudence, audacity, nerve", as in "After assigning me that tiny office, he had the cheek to ask if he could have my desk."

In Play: Cheeky leans more toward "presuming" than toward "insolent", as this example illustrates: "That Phil Anders is a cheeky git: after I told him I didn't want to go out with him, he asked if my sister was free!" You can't go too mildly with the sense of this word: "When I refused to tell him my age, the cheeky devil asked me when I was born. How stupid does he think I am?"

Word History: The noun that produced today's Good Word, cheek, comes from Old English cece "jaw, the fleshy wall of the mouth". This word came from Old English ceowan "to chew", which in fact came to be chew in Modern English. Chew came from the same source as such currently diverse words as German kauen "chew" and Russian ževat' "to chew" (žuju "I chew"). Now, here's the good part: today's Good Word doesn't come from this sense of cheek, but from the metaphorical sense of "buttock". In days gone by, "to cheek someone" meant what "to moon someone" means today. I think you can figure out the semantic journey of cheeky from there. (It would certainly be cheeky of us not to thank William Hupy for seeing the good in today's very Good Word.)

Grand Panjandrum
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Postby MTC » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:14 am

I agree that mooning takes a lot of "cheek," but after a diligent search online can find no connection between this ancient but irreverent practice and the etymology of "cheeky."

All authorities I have discovered indicate "cheek" derives from O.E. cease, cece for "jaw or jawbone," or "the fleshy wall of the mouth" which by natural association with speech gave rise to the meaning "insolence." "Cheeky" is the adjective from the same sourse. The following exchange from Kipling's Stalky &Co (1899) illustrates usage: "'Shut up,' said Harrison.' 'You chaps always behave as if you were jawin' us when we come to jaw you.' 'You're a lot too cheeky,' said Craye." No authority suggests "cheeky" descended from "the metaphorical sense of 'buttock,'" or that 'to cheek someone' meant what 'to moon someone' means today," at least none that I have found.

As for mooning with the other "cheeks," (a slang term for buttocks,) according to Wikipedia:

Moon has been a common shape-metaphor for the buttocks in English since 1743, and the verb to moon has meant 'to expose to (moon)light' since 1601.[citation needed] As documented by McLaren, "'mooning', or exposing one's butt to shame an enemy [...] had a long pedigree in peasant culture" throughout the Middle Ages, and in many nations.[1] Formerly, "mooning" was slang for "wandering idly" and "romantically pining."[2] Although the practice of mooning was widespread by the 19th century, the Oxford English Dictionary dates the use of "moon" and "mooning" to describe the act to student slang of the 1960s, when the gesture became increasingly popular at American universities.[3]
In Chilean Spanish, the act of mooning is known as cara pálida, lit. "Paleface".

"In 80, Flavius Josephus recorded the first known incident of mooning. Josephus recorded that in 66 AD, at around the beginning of the First Roman–Jewish War, a Roman soldier mooned Jewish pilgrims on their way to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, causing a riot, an over-response by the Roman military, and the deaths of thousands of pilgrims." A dark moon, indeed. If myth is accepted as evidence of mooning, history records an even earlier instance when Aphrodite Kallipygos exposed her beautiful backside, an act which the Greeks demurely dubbed "anasyrma."

Barring further evidence it appears Dr. G's etymological "moon rocket" may have misfired, if that isn't too cheeky...MTC

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