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offal

Printable Version Pronunciation: o-fêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Entrails, viscera, the innards of animals. 2. Waste product from any process, leftover waste, garbage, rubbish.

Notes: Today's Good Word pushes the definition of good about as far as it will go—maybe farther. My first encounter with this word occurred during research on Shakespeare as an undergraduate. I discovered that his father, John, had been fined eight years before the Bard's birth for keeping an offensive pile of offal in front of his meat and hide shop. Thank heavens the output of his son's shop was much, much more appealing to the senses.

In Play: Offal isn't anything we like to talk about, though you may still have brief encounters with chicken or fish offal in your kitchen. Offal does sound better than guts: "Take the fish offal directly to the garbage can; don't put it in the kitchen trash." But since it also means "garbage" and "rubbish", it is a very useful weapon in alphaDictionary's on-going crusade against profanity. The next time you lose your temper and hear yourself beginning, "Sh-h-h . . . ," say something more creative like, "Skunk offal! Not a word you said is true!"

Word History: In the English of Shakespeare's father's time, offal was a compound of of- "off" + fal "fall", clearly related to Modern German Abfall "trash, rubbish". In fact, these two words devolved from the same ancestor. We find evidence of the root, fall, throughout the Germanic languages: Swedish falla, Danish falde, Dutch vallen, German fallen. However, outside the Germanic languages there seems to be no clear evidence of it. (I guess Eric Vellend, himself a chef, thought that if he has to deal with offal, we should, too. It is a good word, though, so we thank him for it. Thank Dr. Goodword for not including a picture today.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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