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cajolery

Printable Version Pronunciation: kê-jol-êr-ee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: The act or practice of persuading someone with pleasant flattery and bribery, especially with deceptive promises of rewards and personal gain.

Notes: If this Good Word sounds like jolly, well it should. It is more often than not used tongue in cheek, since most people know when they are being cajoled. Which reminds me, it is the noun derived from the verb cajole. The adjective is made by converting the present participle: cajoling. We know this is the adjective because we can freely convert it into an adverb, cajolingly, by adding the traditional adverbial suffix, -ly.

In Play: Although today's Good Word implies deception, it is a harmless deception it implies: "After using everything from cajolery to threats, Rusty Hooke finally gave up trying to convince his wife that they needed a new fishing boat." The assumption is almost always that it will fail: "Rosetta found that she got her way with men more often by cooking and cajolery than with sexy clothes."

Word History: English borrowed this word from French cajoler. The origin of cajoler is a little foggy, having something to do with blue jays and cages. In 16th century France, cageoller meant "to chatter or sing like a jay". So, the sense of cajolery may have come by analogy of the beauty of the jay's song and that of the flattery involved in cajolery. We don't usually think of the jay's chatter as a beautiful song, however, so others trace this word back to a missing form, cageole, which would have been a diminutive of cage meaning "little cage". Here the analogy would be with the deceptive luring of someone into a prison. Unfortunately, we have no written confirmation of the existence of this word, so we can't work out the details of how the idea of luring someone into a cage came to be the meaning of cajole today. (I hope we do not have to cajole our dear readers into thanking Katy Brezger for suggesting today's exceptionally Good Word in the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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