• garish •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Outlandishly gaudy, repulsively flashy, tastelessly showy. 2. Almost blindingly colored or colorful.
Notes: This word is solidly English, not borrowed from any other language. It has a very normal adverb, garishly, and noun, garishness. The comparative and superlative degrees are formed by adding more and most—more garish, most garish—rather than by suffixes.
In Play: Today's Good Word is one that finds many uses when we talk about our old friend, Maude Lynn Dresser: "Maude Lynn Dresser came to the candlelight dinner in another one of her garish hats from Millie's Millinery and Patisserie." Of course, garishness can be found elsewhere as well: "The appeal of garishness is nowhere more evident than at the garish political conventions in the US this year."
Word History: Few etymologists have stepped up to the plate on the origins of this word and those have struck out. The best guess to date is that garish began its life as gaurish since it has been spelled this way in the distant past. This spelling suggests that it was derived from the verb gaure "to stare, gape in wonderment", which occurred in a popular compound gauring-stock "something to gape at" at about the same time garish (or gaurish) arose. What is missing in this account, is a noun gaure "a gaze", for the suffix -ish is only attached to nouns; only exceptionally to verbs. (Rodger Collins has earned a gaze of admiration from all of us for suggesting today's outlandishly Good Word.)
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