• busk •
bêsk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive
Meaning: 1. To perform in public places for donations from passers-by who stop to listen or watch. 2. (Sailing) To ramble about the seas, weathering storms, looking for easy money.
Notes: We all have enjoyed buskers in big cities: in the subway, in parks, along the street—well, I have. Some play us unexpected music while others perform various acrobatic and miming routines. Someone who busks is a busker, known for his or her busking. It bears no spelling or pronunciation traps.
In Play: We are all drawn by the romance and freedom associated with these (usually) poor but footloose artists: "Toots Pfeiffer and his flute busked their way through Europe before Toots took on a permanent position with the Philadelphia Symphony." Of course freedom carries with it certain risks: "Amanda Lynn was arrested in Europe for busking out of key outside the Conservatoire de Musique in Paris."
Word History: Today's Good Word originally was a verb meaning "to go about seeking, cruise piratically", from an obsolete French verb busquer "to prowl" from Italian buscare, both related to Spanish buscar "to seek, look up". Buskers do tend to be seekers in some sense of the word. We can only guess at its origin: it probably originated as a verb meaning "to hunt", derived from the same root in Italian bosco, Portuguese bosque or French bosquet "woods, forest, grove", but we have no written evidence of such a verb. These words come from Late Latin boscus "woods", which probably comes from the same source as English bush. Today boscus in French is bois "woods, forest". (The suggestion of today's word also comes from a mysterious source, Kathleen McCune of Norway, now living in Sweden, always the seeker of fascinating words.)