• frank •
frængk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Adjective, Verb
Meaning: 1. [Noun, proper: Franks] A member of the Germanic people who conquered Gaul about 500 AD. 2. [Noun, common] A small, smooth, bland-tasting sausage commonly served in an elongated bun. 3. [Adjective] Brutally honest, straightforward, without sugar coating in speech or writing. 4. [Verb] To stamp a postmark cancelling it, or to stamp an envelope in some way permitting it to be delivered free of charge.
Notes: Today we get a bargain: at least four distinct words for the price of one. However, as the Word History will show, if we explore their backgrounds, we find that they all come from the same source. Franking is another word for postage, especially free postage, as in the case of the franking privileges of the members of the US Congress. The adverb for the adjective sense is frankly and the noun, frankness.
In Play: I just can't ignore the opportunity to use this word in most of its meanings in one sentence: "Frankly, Frank, this frank I'm eating isn't worth the franc I paid for it." The franc, of course, is the basic monetary unit of Switzerland (France now uses the euro). Frankly, I think one sentence containing three of this word's senses is enough examples for today.
Word History: All the meanings of today's Good Word, believe it or not, originate in the same Old Germanic word which probably meant "free". It was first recorded in Medieval Latin in reference to the Franks but also as an adjective francus meaning "free". The land of the Gauls conquered by the Franks kept the latter's name, France today, and in all probability the Franks were called "the free ones" because they were the conquerors. For whatever reason, they were associated with freedom and in particular with speaking freely, hence the sense of the English adjective. The postal application originally referred to stamping an envelope for delivery free of cost. A little Frenchman was known as a Franciscus in Late Latin and this word went on to be Old French Franceis "noble, free" (Modern French François), which English borrowed as Francis and Frances. Francis was reduced back to Frank in English. Frank the hotdog? This frank is a clipping of Frankfurter, referring to a sausage originally made in Frankfurt, Germany. (Frankly, we need to thank Rebecca Casper heartily for suggesting such a fascinating Good Word.)
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