• fandango •
Pronunciation: fæn-dæng-go • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A lively Spanish dance in 3/4 time, accented by castanets and boot-thumping, performed by a man and a woman as a courtship ritual. 2. (Southwest regional) A ball or dance party with lively dancing of any sort. 3. Mischief, trouble, tomfoolery.
Notes: This word is so un-English that it hasn't developed any derivative forms. The noun may be used as a verb, as to fandango the night away with a kindred soul. The dancers, however, are just fandango-dancers. Do not confuse this dance with the Spanish flamenco, a dance usually in 12/8 time, accompanied by clapping rather than castanets. The flamenco is also performed by one dancer in the style of Andalusian gypsies. The plural of fandango is fandangos.
In Play: This Good Word seldom escapes its original meaning: "Dinner at the new Spanish restaurant was spiced with the clicking of the castanets and boots of the fandango dancers." The third sense of this word mentioned above has remained rather peripheral, seldom included in dictionaries but still used, particularly in the southwest US: "Johnnie Pickle went to Mexico to dance but got in some fandango with the Mexican police, who threw him out of the country."
Word History: The only clear aspect of this word's history is that it comes from Portuguese. One possibility is that the Spanish adopted and altered Portuguese fado "sad song, lament" into fadango, later copying the middle N into the first syllable. Fado is what Latin fatus "fate" became in Portuguese. That is possible but there is no evidence of the word fadango in Spanish or Portuguese. The other possibility is that fandango is a reduction of Portuguese Esfandangado "discordant, out of tune", the name of a popular song in 17th century Portugal. Again, however, we have no evidence of the intervening steps that led to such a drastic reduction. (Let's not dance around thanking Chris Berry for suggesting today's Good Word, but get straight to it without any fandango.)