• buccaneer •
Pronunciation: bê-kê-neer • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A freebooter, a pirate, a filibuster who preyed on Spanish shipping in the West Indies in the 17th and 18th centuries. 2. An adventuresome, irrepressible daredevil with little or no concern for others.
Notes: Little has been done with this word by way of derivation. The behavior of a buccaneer is buccaneerish. The activity is buccaneering, made possible by the use of this noun as a verb: to buccaneer along the coast of Nantucket. Keep track of the double consonants: two Cs, two Es but only one N.
In Play: The buccaneers of today are far less swashbuckling and dashing than even those of yore: "The street gangs today are crews of latter day buccaneers who sail the streets of major cities, launching raids for cars, drugs, money, and other booty." The point is, despite their portrayal in the movies, the original buccaneers were pretty grisly guys themselves, not at all romantic (see picture). In a slightly more positive light we might speak of the buccaneers of Wall Street who busy themselves with leveraged takeovers of ailing ships of commerce (companies).
Word History: The creators of this word never dreamed it would someday refer to the price of corn but, if you like to serve corn when you barbecue, the suggestion is not completely inappropriate. That is because the original meaning of today's Good Word was "barbecuer", the original sense of French boucanier, which English borrowed for today's Good Word. The French noun was derived from the verb boucaner "to cure meat on a barbeque" which French took from a Tupi Indian word boucan "barbecue frame", derived from mukém "rack". The French word (boucanier) first referred to hunters who cured their meat over a boucan. The boucaniers later switched to hunting and barbecuing larger, more profitable game at sea.