• palaver •Pronunciation: pê-læ-vêr, pê-lah-vêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: A talk, a conversation, a discussion for purposes ranging from idle chatter, to flattery, to resolving a dispute.
Notes: Today's word may well have come over with white slave traders who did business in Portuguese West Africa. It was originally a Portuguese word, but now has been completely Anglicized. It may be used as a verb, as 'to palaver with women all night. While the pseudo-Latin adjective palaverous rears its head from time to time, the most common adjective is the perfectly English palavering, as 'a palavering lush who would leave no one alone'.
In Play: Keep in mind that while most English dictionaries have lifted the taint of "slang" from this word, it is still a humorous word at best: "Dear, I think you and I should have a more serious palaver before we commit to buying a new car." The kind of talk covered by palaver must be specified by a modifier if the context doesn't make it clear: "They keep Waldo as a director because he keeps the board room awash in flattering palaver whenever he is around."
Word History: Today's word was adapted from Portuguese palavra "word (figuratively speech)", inherited from Latin parabola "speech, parable". Latin borrowed parabola from Greek parabole "comparison", the noun of paraballein "to compare", composed of para "beside" + ballein "to throw". The root that developed into Greek ballein also devolved through Old Germanic into English ball after relatively few twists and turns. The Greek verb itself also went into the making of diaballein "to slander", made up of dia "through, by" + ballein "throw, hurl". The noun from this verb was diabolos "slanderer", borrowed by Latin as diabolus. Old English then picked up the Latin word, converting it to deofol, which Middle English transformed into devil. (Our palaver should include a note of gratitude to Kelsey Marshall for suggesting today's funny little Good Word.)