• daffydowndilly •
dæf-ê-dæwn-di-lee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: (Playful slang) The yellow daffodil, a bulb flower that looks like a trumpet with a bonnet, that grows wild all over Europe and North America, at least.
Notes: Daffydowndillies are one of the first flowers of spring. According to the venerable Oxford English Dictionary their name is "a playful expansion of daffodilly". This word, which is generally just spoken, has been spelled many different ways: daffodowndilly, daffadowndilly, daffadoondilly, and daffedowndilly—to mention only the top four contenders.
In Play: If daffodil isn't daffy enough for you, today's Good Word is a variation of that word that should satisfy the heartiest cravings for silliness: "Oh, mother, have you seen the daffydowndillies? They are all over the place!" I can't imagine a serious situation in which anyone would use this word. As in the example above, we would have to be in an exalted state of silliness to utter it: "Look what I found at the market today: daffydowndillies!"
Word History: This word has been around since at least the mid-16th century. It is a type of word known as a "sandwich word" in linguistics, because it wraps one word around another. The word daffodilly is split in two, and down has been sandwiched between the resulting parts: daffo-down-dilly. After a final touchup by way of folk etymology, we get today's Good Word, a word with three recognizable words in it: daffy, down, and dilly. Sandwich words are usually naughty: Mononga-freakin-hela and abso-dam-lutely are more common examples. So, why daffodil(ly)? Well, someone noticed that daff was contained in daffodilly and, since daffodillies are harbingers of spring which make many of us a little daffy—and the daffodilly is a dilly of a flower come spring—it magically became the likeliest candidate for custom sandwiching.
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