Printable Version
Pronunciation: præ-dêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To gab, chatter idly, babble, jabber, natter, twaddle, talk endlessly about trivialities.

Notes: Like chatterbox, someone who prattles a lot may be called a prattlebox, thought prattler is the more modern term. The verb itself may be used as an action noun, though the present participle, prattling, may be used for the same purpose.

In Play: Prattle has remained the same over the centuries: "Hermione thinks that modern telephony simply makes possible long-distant prattle via convenient handheld devices." The internet facilitates if not encourages prattle: "Facebook pages are filled with prattle about food, family, and folksy philosophy."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a combination of prate "talk childishly" + -el, an old diminutive suffix, used here to mark the frequentative sense, repetition of the action of the verb. Prate seems to have been borrowed from Dutch praten "to babble", but there is evidence of it throughout the Germanic languages: Icelandic and Swedish prata, and Norwegian prate. No evidence of this word appears outside the Germanic languages. This suggests it might have been borrowed from a non-PIE language or was concocted in Old Dutch by onomatopoeia. The suffix (-el) was borrowed from Old French -el (Modern French -eau), that French inherited from Latin -ellus. This suffix was handed down from PIE -olo-lo-, itself a double diminutive, from -lo-, source also of the first element in English -ling: gosling, duckling, hatchling. As a frequentative marker, we see it in twinkle, trample, and struggle.

Dr. Goodword,

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