• dandle •
Pronunciation: dæn-dêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To bounce (a child or baby) up and down on your knees or swing them up and down in your arms. 2. To pamper, pet, fondle, coddle, or spoil in other ways.
Notes: Today's fascinating word is seldom heard nowadays for reasons that escape me. Someone who dandles children is a dandler and, as a fanatical dandler of my grandchildren, I find the fading of this Good Word disturbing. I hope featuring it in our series brings it back strong.
In Play: If you can't resist bouncing a baby on your knee, you are a dandler: "Papa, don't dandle the baby too much or she'll dump her lunch on your lap." This word has now taken on a much broader meaning that may be applied to adults: "Molly Cottle was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and dandled to adulthood by her parents; I doubt she will be of much use to the company."
Word History: Although we have no hard evidence of the origin of this word, we do find plenty of potential sources in the languages surrounding English. Italian dondolare has the same meaning as today's Good Word. We also find German tändeln "to trifle or play with", not so far removed in sound and meaning from the English word. French dandiner "to waddle" is a bit removed, but the online Italian etymological dictionary links it with all these words. As you can see, all this is quite speculative and no one has any idea of how either dand- or dond- got into any of these Romance languages; there is no evidence of either in Latin. (Jeremy Busch is far beyond dandling but not beyond thanking for suggesting today's delightful Good Word.)