Printable Version
Pronunciation: flim-zi Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Soft, almost weightless, transparent, thin, as 'a flimsy material'. 2. Weak, unstable, not strong enough for the purpose, as 'a flimsy toolbox'. 3. Implausible, weak, poor, insubstantial, as 'a flimsy excuse'.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a natural adjective, i.e. one with comparative and superlative forms: flimsier and flimsiest. Of course, there is an adverb, flimsily and a noun, flimsiness. Be careful of the shift of the Y to I before any suffix: a common spelling convention in English.

In Play: Of course, nightgowns and veils can be flimsy, but so can furniture: "Harmon is very handy. He just built a chair in his shop, but it was so flimsy that it collapsed when our puppy jumped on it." Just as a homemade chair might not be able to hold together, research and arguments can have the same problem: "A well-known west coast research institution has recently proved that chocolate is more effective than Viagra, but the research was rather flimsy."

Word History: The best guess is that today's Good Word was originally filmsy, which then underwent metathesis; the I and the L switched places. While we frequently meet metathesis in the histories of Indo-European languages, we don't have a printed example of filmsy to corroborate this speculation, so the evidence, you might say, is quite flimsy. The suffix, on the other hand, while relatively rare, is found in a handful of adjectives, usually derived from nouns, such as antsy, clumsy, gutsy, itsy-bitsy, sudsy, and tipsy.

Dr. Goodword,

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