• badinage •
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: Light, cheerful banter; humorous light-hearted chatting.
Notes: No, badinage is a good thing, despite its orthographical aspect (spelling). It is based on a now obsolete adjective badine "light-hearted, frivolous, flippant", so its original meaning was something like "flippancy, frivolity". Today it is used strictly in connection with chatter. A person who indulges in badinage is a badineur.
In Play: Badinage is the cheerful small talk we all appreciate at the end of a hard day or week: "Myna Bird is such a master of sophisticated dinner badinage that no one in Smoketown would dare stage a dinner party without inviting her." Elsewhere our appreciation of badinage dips if not disappears: "The superficial badinage that passes for news analysis on radio and TV these days is appalling."
Word History: Today's Good Word, as the suffix -age gives away, comes from French. It is based on badin "light-hearted, playful", an adjective from the verb badiner "to jest, take lightly". The French apparently adopted badin from one of its dialects, that of Old Provençal, where it meant "a fool, dumb bunny", derived from badar "to gape". The French connection between gaping and foolishness also turns up in the very funny word gobemouche "naif, gullible person" based on the phrase gober (une) mouche "to swallow (a) fly", implying an open mouth. I think this is one of the 100 Funniest Words in English—or any other language. (We are grateful that Jeremy Busch is capable of far deeper conversations than badinage as the eminent Slava in the Alpha Agora.)
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