Printable Version
Pronunciation: rig-mê-rol or ri-gê-mê-rol Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Double talk, rambling, disconnected speech. 2. Red tape, a complicated and confusing process.

Notes: The original pronunciation of this jolly word contained only one A, but most dictionaries have given up the fight to keep the second one out. If you like to speak 'original' English, resist the temptation to insert an extra A in this word after the G. However, you are in good company if you don't. The noun expressing the quality of rigmarole is rigmarolery and you have your choice of two adjectives: rigmarolish or rigmarolic.

In Play: If you think this word sounds a bit slangy, remember that Lord Byron thought it a word of learned speakers. In Don Juan (1818) he wrote, "His speech was a fine sample, on the whole, of rhetoric, which the learn'd call 'rigmarole'." Today, of course, it is fair game for speakers of all educational levels: "The registration rigmarole for a marriage license was so dismaying, we decided to call off the wedding and remain just friends."

Word History: This funny word is an alteration of obsolete Ragman Roll, the name of a set of scrolls given to King Edward I in 1291 by Scottish noblemen. All these deeds were eventually joined together to produce the 12-meter long Ragman Roll, found now in the Public Records Office in London—a pretty long piece of red tape, indeed. Ragman comes from an old Scandinavian word referring to the Devil, a meaning the word bore in English until the 14th century. This sense of ragman could be a reduction of ragged man, where ragged refers to the shagginess of animals, an attribute often applied to the Devil.

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!