Printable Version
Pronunciation: zai-dê-ko Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: A popular music style in southern Louisiana that mixes blues music with French and Caribbean tunes, usually played by small groups built around a guitar, accordion, and washboard.

Notes: In the past, this word was spelled and pronounced variously, as zodico and zologo. Because of its oddness and youth (first published in the 1940s), it has no lexical family.

In Play: Today's Good Word is tightly associated with a type of music and a specific place: "As Hazel Nutt walked down the streets of her hometown in Louisiana, the sounds of zydeco wafting from the windows created an appetite for crawfish boil and rosemint tea." However, the word is quite popular down South: "Clifton never succeeded in the Louisiana music world until he adopted the zydeco style."

Word History: Clifton Chenier in his recording "Zydeco Sont Pas Salés" was the first to use the word as it's spelled today. Zydeco apparently came from the Louisiana French Creole zarico "beans", the Creole (mis)pronunciation of French les haricots "the string beans". The connection to music comes from the phrase 'Les haricots (sont pas salés)' "the string beans (aren't salty)", pronounced [le zahriko]. This is a common phrase in Creole song lyrics, suggesting hard times in which people cannot afford salt pork to cook with their beans. Haricot originally meant "stew", which probably comes from Old French harigoter "to shred, cut to pieces". This word was borrowed from Frankish harjon, passed down from Proto-Germanic harjona "to overrun, ravage, devastate". Harjona descended from PIE koro "war, army, horde", source also of English harbor. Harbor came from Old English herebeorg "army barracks", composed of here "army" + beorg "lodging". The meaning easily coasted from there to "lodging for warships and boats". To harry is another descendant of OE here "war, army". (Today's Good if unlikely Word resulted from the suggestion of E. Douglas Pratt, a newcomer to the growing list of contributors.)

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!