• piggyback •
Pronunciation: pig-gi-bæk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adverb, Adjective, Noun, Verb
Meaning: 1. [Adjective, Adverb] On the back of someone or attached to something else. 2. [Noun] An object carried by a person, animal, or vehicle. 3. [Verb] To carry on one's back or attach to another object for support or transport.
Notes: This is a common word, a word we hear around the house every day. How could it possibly be interesting? Well, first, it can function as any of the major parts of speech, as 'to ride piggyback' (adverb) or 'a piggyback ride' (adjective). We can piggyback a cargo truck on a train car (verb) in which case the truck is a piggyback (noun). Not many words in English can boast this kind of flexibility.
In Play: How many fathers have fallen for this one: "Daddy, ride me piggyback and I will clean up my room." At work, of course, daddy uses this word in a much more sophisticated fashion: "Marvin, is there anyway we can piggyback funding for a company yacht on the water cooler budget for next year?"
Word History: Today's Good Word began as pick pack sometimes before 1564. This form suggests the original concept was picking up a pack of something and putting where people in those days generally carried loads—on their backs. According to the Oxford English Dictionary pick pack changed 44 different ways before reaching its current form, piggyback. Pick pack became pick-a-pack, then pick-a-back by association. The word seemed to be a compound, but could not be analyzed into distinct words with meanings, which led to much ambivalence. The A was a particular problem. When it shifted to I, the word became pickiback, which sounded like picky back. This made no sense, so in the 1930s we began trying piggyback since, when we ride our children on our backs, we often crawl on hands and knees, roughly imitating pigs. This is another example of folk etymology working its magic on our language.