• passel •
pæs-êl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A lot (of), a large group (of). 2. A large amount.
Notes: Today's is an interesting word that demonstrates how a mispronunciation of a common word can be the genesis of a new word (see Word History). Today parcel and passel are two entirely different words. Although the mispronunciation has been around at least since the 1460s, only in a few regions of England and, mostly, the southeastern US is the new form used.
In Play: We generally think of parcels as small packages, but its mispronunciation refers to large amounts: "You will find yourself in a passel of trouble if you criticize my wife's cooking." Apparently, the meaning originally referred to several as opposed to one item, but now it can refer to countable and uncountable things but always in large amounts: "Al Falfa has a passel of collards in his garden this year but his okra didn't get enough rain."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a corruption of parcel. It began its life in Middle English, borrowed from Old French parcelle, the descendant of Latin particula "little part, particle", the diminutive of pars, partis "part". The same root suffixed, originally *par-tion-, became Latin portio(n), which is behind our noun portion. It also underlies party, in all its senses, an interesting etymological ride in itself, for which we have no time or space here but will return to some day.
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