• Rabelaisian •
ræ-bê-lay-zi-ên, ræ-bê-lay-zhên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Related to the works of French author François Rabelais. 2. Earthy, bawdy, raunchy, gross, recklessly frank, having the nature of coarse humor or bold caricature. 3. Gluttonous, excessive ('Rabelaisian appetites'). 4. Students, followers or admirers of the works of Rabelais.
Notes: Today's word is a commonization that is still spelled with an initial capital letter, whose eponym is a famous French novelist. Writers have tried rabelaic a few times, but all have settled on today's Good Word. It has no derivational relatives, so it is a lexical orphan.
In Play: The basic sense of today's Good Word is "raunchy, recklessly frank": "Phil Anders went into astonishing Rabelaisian detail when describing all of his feminine conquests." However, it may also mean "gluttonously excessive": "Dinner was a Rabelaisian feast: the participants boisterously gorging themselves on suckling pig, goose, beef, sausages and a variety of wines and vegetables."
Word History: Today's word is a capitalized commonization of the name of a French author, François Rabelais (1490-1553), whose writings are distinguished by their exuberance of imagination combined with extravagance and coarseness of humor and satire. He is best known for his novel Gargantua and Pantagruel, the former name also commonized in English as gargantuan. The two main characters of this novel are giants, with appropriately gigantic appetites for food, drink, adventurous life. According to Wikipedia, Rabelais's use of French was lively and creative. His introduction of dozens of Greek, Latin, and Italian loan words into his native tongue was astoundingly original, lively, and creative. He also used many dialectal forms that have become part of the standard language. (Our gratitude today is owed Sue Gold of Westtown School, whose gargantuan appetite for reading carried her to today's giant of a Good Word.)
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