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bricolage

Printable Version
Pronunciation: bri-kê-lahzh Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A creation from a diverse range of available materials.

Notes: Today's Good Word waded into English in the 1960s, so recently it hasn't even lost its French pronunciation. It is now used for everything from the creative uses of leftovers, 'culinary bricolage' to the cobbling together of disparate computer parts 'technical bricolage'. Someone who creates bricolages of any sort is a bricoleur, if a man, or bricoleuse, if a woman.

In Play: The meaning of today's word is a creation from mishmash of available materials: "Paige Turner's new book is less a novel and more a bricolage of her earlier short stories." The meaning of the English word may have been influenced by collage: "Some have said that Heidegger's philosophy is just a bricolage of the thoughts of others."

Word History: French social anthropologist Claude LÚvi-Strauss compared the artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. He referred to that process of making-do as bricolage. Bricolage was borrowed from French. It was derived from the verb bricoler "to putter about", which also produced bricoleur "jack-of-all-trades", used today in English in the sense of a creator of bricolages. The French verb came from bricole "trifle" or "catapult", borrowed from Italian briccola "catapult". Italian apparently borrowed the word from Old High German brechen "to break". The semantic shift from "catapult" to "trifle" may have resulted from the association with the ammunition used by a catapult or the pieces left by a catapult assault. (Let's now thank Brian Johnson of Tokyo for recommending today's rising star of a Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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