• louche •
loosh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Questionable, 'fishy', not straightforward, suspicious, even disreputable in some contexts.
Notes: Today's word entered English so recently (the 1810s), that it has hardly had time to procreate. However, a few writers have tried the adverb louchely and the noun loucheness on the Web.
In Play: This Good Word comes in handy when you want to avoid the slangy term fishy: "There is something louche about the way he stared at my diamond pendant when we were dancing." It has world-wide applications: "Everyone feels that most of the Western-style discos in the new Moscow are a bit louche."
Word History: In French, today's Good Word means "cross-eyed" or "fishy, suspicious". Not much has changed since English shanghaied it. The French word derives from Latin luscus "one-eyed", whose origin is itself a bit louche. It resembles lux (luk-s) "light", which is faintly similar in meaning to luscus. Did this word at one time mean "blinding" or "partially blind"? That would make sense but we have no reliable evidence that it ever had either of these senses. One of our editors, Luciano Oliveira, offers an interesting side note: Portuguese has a word lusco-fusco "twilight" that descended from Latin luscus + fuscus "dark, dusky". So we can trace where luscus went but not where it came from. (It would be a bit louche to overlook the contribution of Lynne Flake, who suggested we look into today's Good Word.)
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