• liaison •
lee-ay-zahn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Informative mutual communication, cooperative relationship. 2. A person who provides a pathway of communication in such a relationship. 3. A sexual affair. 4. A binding or thickening agent in sauces, usually an egg yolk.
Notes: Today's is a tricky word for its spelling. We just have to remember the IAI combination in the first half of liaison. In the 1920s a verbal back-formation arose, to liaise, which, over the course of the next half century, wheedled its way into the general vocabulary.
In Play: "Harry maintained a close liaison with the school counselor and limited his misbehavior in such a way that he graduated from high school by the skin of his teeth." The sexual connotation is also popular: "After graduation Harry lost his first job as a result of numerous liaisons with female coworkers." Although rare, the fourth sense of today's word is still available: "Sue Flay added a liaison of egg yolk to the sauce to make it even more thick and velvety."
Word History: Today's Good Word was originally a cookery term for a thickening agent in sauces, from Old French liaison "a union, a binding together". The French word is a makeover of a word it inherited from Late Latin ligatio(n) "a binding", a noun from the past participle stem of Latin ligare "to bind". Latin inherited the word from PIE leig- "to tie, bind", source also of like and Albanian lidh "I bind". Latin ligare comes from the same PIE source. The noun from this verb was ligatura "a band, binding". Old French only changed the A to E, at which point English borrowed the word for its ligature. (Today we owe a whole nother debt of gratitude to one of the all-time champion word recommenders mentioned in The 100 Most Interesting Words in English, William Hupy, for suggesting yet another fascinating Good Word.)
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