• rinky-dink •
Pronunciation: ring-ki-dink • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: (Slang) 1. Cheap, of poor quality, amateurish, shoddy, as 'rinky-dink costume jewelry' or 'rinky-dink parade'. 2. Simple, simple-minded, as 'a rinky-dink idea'.
Notes: Today's Good Word has nothing to do with ice skating. It is a slang word that stands alone, without any lexical relatives—a lexical orphan. Some people like to add the suffix -y to the end of it, rinky-dinky, to make the second component sound more like the first, but the meaning doesn't change.
In Play: Anything simple, run-down, or shoddy is fair game for today's word: "Jim Dandy rose to the major leagues from some rinky-dink semi-pro league down south." When I say 'anything', I mean 'anything': "Lance Sterling lives in a rinky-dink shack on the outskirts of a rinky-dink burg out west."
Word History: Today's word started out at the turn of the 20th century as a rhyming compound and an onomatopoetic term referring to only the music of banjos and out-of-tune pianos. Since sophisticated bands generally have access to tuned pianos and use no banjos, the word soon was forced into figurative use referring to anything cheap or amateurish. By the 1930s the nasals (Ns) had dropped out in some areas giving us ricky-tick, still referring to simple repetitive music with a steady beat by an amateurish band or piano player.