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A.Word.A.Day--bedizen

Pronunciation RealAudio

bedizen (bi-DY-zuhn) verb tr.

To dress or decorate in a showy or gaudy manner.

[From be- + dizen, from [possibly Low German] disen (to put flax on a distaff for spinning), from dis- (bunch of flax).]

Today's word and the word distaff share the same origin, dis- (a bunch of flax). A distaff is a staff with a cleft for holding wool, flax, etc. from which thread is drawn while being spun by hand. In olden times, spinning was considered a woman's work, so distaff figuratively referred to women. Distaff side (also spindle side) refers to the female side of a family. The corresponding male equivalent of the term is spear side (also sword side). Distaffs and spears are long gone -- what would be the modern stereotypical replacements of these terms?

"When Daisy wants to bedizen herself to impress tout San Francisco, she has her servants add the crowning touch by dusting her with gold." Dennis Drabelle; Frisco Business; The Washington Post; Jan 24, 1992.

"It was still basically 'Krausmeyer's Alley,' but it was a 'Krausmeyer's Alley' adorned and bedizened with reminiscences of every other burlesque-show curtain raiser and afterpiece in the repertory.' H.L. Mencken; Stare Decisis (later renamed A Bum's Christmas); New Yorker; Dec 30, 1944.

This week's theme: miscellaneous words.

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