• catercorner •
kæ-dÍr-kor-nÍr or kæ-dee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective, adverb
Meaning: Located diagonally across from something else.
Notes: Few words in the English language have given its speakers as much trouble as this word. In some quarters, it is rendered catty-corner(ed), hence the second pronunciation above. My southern relatives prefer catty-wampus. Many in New England simply gave up and created their own word, antigogglin(g). Today's word is usually used as an adverb, but may be used as an adjective. There is no noun.
In Play: The obvious use of this adverb is in denoting physical relationships: "She lives catercorner to us," means that she lives in a house across the street from the speaker and up or down the street a house or two. It could mean that the two live on street corners diametrically opposed to each other. That same sentiment may be applied metaphorically, too, "His thinking runs absolutely catercorner to everyone else's."
Word History: Today's Good Word comprises a now archaic word cater "four" + corner. Cater is from Old French catre (today quatre) "four", the historical reflex of Latin quattuor "four". The Proto-Indo-European form was approximately kwetwer-. In the Germanic languages both the [k] and [t] elided, giving German vier and English four. The Romance languages preserved most of the Latin word: Portuguese quarto, Spanish cuatro, and Italian quattro. In the Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages, the [k] became [ch] giving Russian chetyre, Polish cztery and Hindi, Bengali, and Farsi chaar.
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