• cacophony •
kê-kaw-fê-ni, kê-kah-fê-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Dissonance, harsh discordant sound, mishmash of sounds. 2. A chaotic mixture.
Notes: Be sure you pronounce the A and following O in the correct order. I have heard [kaw-kæ-fê-ni] as often as the correct pronunciation above. The adjective is cacophonous, though cacophonic is a rarely used alternative.
In Play: A cacophony does not have to be unpleasant: "Beverly arrived at the concert hall amidst the cacophony of the symphony tuning up." This word may be used figuratively, too: "The evening meal was a cacophony of flavors in which the oysters managed to hold their own."
Word History: Today's Good Word is an adaptation of French cacophonie, itself an adaptation of a Latinized form of Greek kakophonia. The Greek word is the noun from kakophonos "harsh sounding", made up of kakos "bad, evil" + phone "sound". Kakos was inherited by Greek from PIE root kakka- "to defecate", source also of Latin cacare "to defecate", borrowed by English as caca. It also shows up in many IE languages like Armenian k'akor "garbage", and Russian kakat', German kacken, and Welsh cachu "to defecate". Phone derives from PIE bha- "to speak, tell, say", source also of Armenian ban "word, speech", Russian bayka "fairy tale", and Latin fari "to speak". The present participle of fari is fan(t)s "speaking", so someone without speech would be infan(t)s, borrowed by English as infant. (Now a note of gratitude for our long-standing friend, wordmaster Albert Skiles for today's nasty little Good Word.)
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