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Pronunciation: ê-skæns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adverb

Meaning: 1. Aslant, obliquely, sideways, out of the corner of your eye, as to look askance at something. 2. With mild suspicion or disapproval, as parents who might look askance at nose rings and tattoos on their children.

Notes: I used to ask aunts everything but that is spelled differently. Today's Good Word is a curve ball: it isn't what it seems to be, having nothing to do with ask. It apparently contains the prefix a- that is used to form "anomalous" adjectives such as aslant, abloom, afloat. The problem is, we have no skance or skant in English (askant is OK, too).

In Play: Hmmmm1. A sideway glance may be the only thing today's Good Word implies: "When I suggested that we move forward in the development of the helicopter ejector seat, the boss looked askance at me but said nothing." I wouldn't be surprised if everyone in the company didn't look askance—in the second sense of this word—at this particular project. However, looking askance does carry a hint of mild suspicion: "Mom looks askance at our cruising around looking for parties at night."

Word History: Today's Good Word is only ostensibly an "anomalous" adjective in the sense above in Notes. Closer examination, however, makes it more likely a modest makeover of Italian a scancio "slanting, aslope, across". The Italian word shares its source with Old French exclanc "left hand(ed)". There is a whole group of words of more or less obscure origin beginning in ask-: askant, askew, asquint. These no doubt influenced each other but none suggests that any share a common source. (I don't think any of us would look askance at offering Ed Bedford a word of thanks for suggesting today's curiously interesting Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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