Printable Version
Pronunciation: twee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Overly nice, sugary, precious (in the sarcastic sense), mawkish.

Notes: Today we offer a nod to our British cousins, for today's Good Word will be known to almost all of them. It will probably come as a surprise to readers in the US, and that may surprise Britons.

In Play: Today's term means "sweet" sarcastically: "The Eaton Inn was so nauseatingly twee with its plastic flowers, perky waitresses, and elevator music." Attitudes may be twee, too: "Candy Cain is so twee when she shares her 18th century views at the dinner table."

Word History: Today's Good Word started out as tweet, baby-talk for sweet. Then it lost its final T to become what it is today. All this took place at the beginning of the 20th century. Before that, all we had was sweet, which has cousins in many other Germanic languages: German süß, Danish sød, and Swedish söt. All of these go back to PIE suad- "sweet, pleasant", which we see in the Latinate borrowings persuade and dissuade via the sense of "sweet-talk". The D dropped out later in Latin giving the Romans suavis "sweet, pleasant", which English borrowed, via French, as suave. The PIE word also went into the making of Lithuanian sūrus "salty" but saldus "sweet", from PIE sal-d- "salt". The meaning switch occurred in all Balto-Slavic languages: Russian sladkii "sweet", Polish słodki "sweet", and Serbian sladak "sweet" from the same salty PIE word with metathesis. (Now let's all thank Mark Bailey for suggesting a long series of Good Words that are not at all twee.)

Dr. Goodword,

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