• lampoon •
Pronunciation: læm-pun • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: A satire ridiculing something or someone.
Notes: Today's Good Word is sometimes confused with caricature or parody. A caricature exaggerates a striking characteristic of its object, as a political caricature in a newspaper. A parody exaggerates the style of writing of someone for facetious effect. A lampoon, however, covers all these styles to ridicule someone or something. The nature or collection of all lampoons is lampoonery. Someone who engages in lampoonery may be called either a lampoonist or lampooner.
In Play: The classic lampoon is A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. In it Swift proposes that the impoverished Irish ease their economic woes by selling their children to the wealthy as food. Swift was lampooning the heartless attitudes of Irish politicians toward the poor. He goes into great detail, keeping a straight face throughout.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from French lampon, said by French etymologists to be from lampons "let us drink". This word was popular in 17th century bar songs, which often lampooned aspects of French society and culture. It is the 1st person plural imperative of lamper "to drink, guzzle", a nasalized form of laper "to lap", borrowed from Old English lapian "to lap up, drink". This word today is lap, akin to Dutch lepel and German Löffel "spoon". Beyond the Germanic languages, we find Greek laptein "to sip, lick" and Latin lambere "to lick". The suffix -oon was used historically to transliterate French words ending on accented -on. We see it also on balloon (French ballon), cartoon (French carton), and macaroon (French macaron)—all accented on the last syllable. (Let's not lampoon Rob Towart, but rather thank him for suggesting today's very Good Word.)