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A.Word.A.Day--cumshaw

Pronunciation RealAudio

cumshaw (KUM-shaw) noun

A gift or a tip.

[From Chinese (Amoy/Xiamen dialect), literally, grateful thanks.]

"An additional bit of cumshaw came on foreign press trips, in the old days at least, when the travel office people enabled the returning correspondents to bypass customs formalities." Richard Dudman, Connections, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jun 15, 1997.

"Prisoners didn't make demands and politicians held their cumshaw down to peanuts but still found themselves out on their keesters if they were caught." Burton Z. Chertok Carlisle, Slide in Behavior, The Patriot - News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Feb 12, 2001.

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." Those colorful words of writer James Davis Nicoll (1961- ) succinctly inform us of the tendency of English to profit from foreign imports. Luckily, there is no nanny called The English Academy to keep it honest and we are all the richer for it.

While many of these "borrowed" expressions, which linguists call loanwords, eventually become naturalized, many retain their distinctly foreign character in spelling, pronunciation and grammar. In this week's AWAD we'll look at words borrowed from five languages (Chinese, Swedish, Persian, Tongan, and Japanese), words that are now indispensable part of the English language. -Anu

X-Bonus

I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

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