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A.Word.A.Day--shenanigan

Pronunciation RealAudio

Assorted words.

Order is good. Mostly. It makes sure that the earth will go around the sun in the same way as it has in the past and bring the summer to ripen the mangoes. Patterns are good too -- most of the time. They help us find our shoes easily among an array of other pairs.

But if we stick too much to the same order and pattern, we lose. We lose the opportunity to discover new lands, new paths, new flowers, new ways (and new words!).

Sometimes the break in order is by choice and at times it's forced, as when you lose a job. Often it's a blessing in disguise. It's an opportunity to explore and discover what remained hidden from the old path.

This week's words have no order, pattern, or theme. They just are. But they're all interesting.

shenanigan (shuh-NAN-i-guhn) noun, usually plural

A deceitful trick or mischievous act; a prank.

[Of unknown origin.]

See more usage examples of shenanigan in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

Etymologists aren't sure of the origin of this word, but if you go by how many Irish pubs are named Shenanigans or Shenanigan's, the word is probably of Irish origin.

The Oxford English Dictionary shows the very first citation of the word from an 1855 San Francisco publication. The California Gold Rush began in 1849 and there were plenty of Irishmen panning for gold there.

But it's still only a hypothesis and until we're sure, we'll have to quote Mark Twain who once said, "I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn't know."

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

"Germany's constitution sets a very high bar for dissolving parliament in order to avoid a repeat of Weimar Republic-era shenanigans that helped Adolf Hitler come to power." Germany Paves the Way for Elections; Der Spiegel (Hamburg, Germany); Jul 22, 2005.

X-Bonus

Nature's laws affirm instead of prohibit. If you violate her laws, you are your own prosecuting attorney, judge, jury, and hangman. -Luther Burbank, horticulturist (1849-1926)

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