• askew •
ê-skyu • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective-Adverb
Meaning: 1. Out of kilter, off, not straight, awry, twisted, wrong. 2. Sidelong, out of the corners of your eyes.
Notes: Today's Good Word is what I call a 'defective adjective'. These adjectives (there are thousands) usually begin with a prefix a-, for instance aboard, aloud, amuck, abloom. They may only be used adjectivally in predicate position, that is, "The hat was askew" works, but not "the askew hat". They may be used as adverbs without the usual suffix -ly: "The hat went askew", but we can't make a noun out of them: no
In Play: Today's word fundamentally means "not straight": "Helen Highwater never removed the picture of her ex-husband from the wall, but left it hanging there askew to remind herself and others of why she left him." However, as the preceding sentence intimates, the physical world is not the only place where things may run askew: "Helen's relationship with her husband had always been much askew."
Word History: This adjective was built on the verb skew "to move or look sideways" by adding the defective adjective prefix a-. Skew was borrowed from Old French eschiuer "to shun, avoid" before Old French added E to words beginning with S followed by a consonant. Old French apparently picked this word up from Old Germanic skiva- "to avoid, dodge". The same Old French word came into English as eschew in the sense of "to avoid, shun". (Things would certainly be askew were we to forget to thank William Hupy, a Lexiterian in the Agora and the contributor of today's Good Word.)
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