Printable Version
Pronunciation: sæ-shay Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: 1. (Slang) Go, sally forth, walk in a lofty, proud gait; strut. 2. (Dance) A smooth, gliding step-together-step figure.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a lexical orphan, so its family is restricted to its inflectional forms, sashayed and sashaying. The latter serves as both noun and adjective.

In Play: When I think of this word, the first sense that pops into my mind is simply "go" or "sally forth": "Why don't you sashay out to the ranch afore the sheriff gets here." Today's word is a bit archaic, so to give it some context, I used the equally archaic afore instead of before. It can also imply strutting: "Harvey Wallbanger sashayed up to the bar as though he owned the place."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a descendant of lexical royalty. It is a mispronunciation of chassé, a gliding three-step in ballet. It is a term of dance that changed its form as it descended from classical ballet to square dancing. It began "a sliding step-together-step" movement. It spread from there to ballroom dancing and was applied to a similar figure in American square-dancing, in which partners circle each other by taking sideway steps. The change in pronunciation is explained by folk etymology, the attempt to make foreign words sound more "English". We have another example of this in do-si-do, a dance figure by which partners circle each other back to back. This word comes from French dos dos "back to back" from French dos "back". (We can no longer sashay around recognition of Jeanne Henry's contribution of today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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