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, a switching of places of the [i] and [l]. 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, sudsy, and tipsy.

Dr. Goodword,

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