kæ-rê-sel • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A merry-go-round, a roundabout (UK), an amusement park entertainment comprising large carved animals that bob up and down while moving around and around on a large circular platform. 2. A rotating conveyor at an air terminal that presents luggage to arriving passengers. 3. [Archaic] A medieval jousting or tilting match in full regalia.
Notes: Just remember that a carousel is more fun than a carousal [kê-ræw-zêl], certainly the morning after. In fact, when carousing you should avoid carousels at all cost, for a fall from one of the latter could be very painful. Do merry-go-rounds and carousels rotate in different directions? Another old wives' tale. Outside England, carousels almost always rotate counterclockwise so as to leave the right hand free to grab the brass ring (for which see below).
In Play: We really haven't settled on a name for this glorious little amusement: merry-go-round, roundabout, carousel. In my childhood we called them simply the hobby-horses. If someone had asked: "Would you like a ride on the carousel," likely as not we would have replied, "No." The new-fangled carousel is the only kind some of us know: "Why was she picked up for riding a carousel?" "She was at the airport." Many carousels have a detachable brass ring within reach of the riders. If you successfully grab that ring as you swish by, you get a free ride. This is why brass ring now means "rich opportunity", as you might get the brass ring by marrying the boss's son.
Word History: Today's word is a modest make-over of French carrousel, a word French borrowed from Italian carosello, a variant of garosello "a tilting match or mock combat on horseback in full regalia". Garosello is a diminutive of garoso "quarrelsome, contentious", a relative of English garrulous and, indeed, of quarrel itself. (No one will argue about our debt of gratitude to Peggy Nielsen for today's spin on this fascinating English word.)
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