Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Elementary, my dear word-lover.

"We'll finagle it, Yof," I said.

"We'll bagel what," questioned Yofred.

I have used "finagle" in more than one conversation with my friend Yofred and he is always perplexed by it. I am not sure exactly where or when I added it to my vernacular, but it is there.

I tried to explain to Yofred the definition of "finagle" in the clearest way possible. I must have not done a good job; he still asks me what it means every time it slips out into a sentence.

After the third confusion-ridden, "finagle" instance, I made a mental note to at some point find out where this word came from.

This morning I was surfing online and I came across "The Word Detective." Could it be true! The perfect synthesis of my two obsessions: Nancy Drew and words? Maybe a place where I can find out more about "finagle!"

Linguist/columnist Evan Morris has been answering word questions since 1995 and conveniently has them archived on this handy website. There is no search option (downer) but there is an alphabetical list of previous columns. You can buy a paid subscription to get a bi-weekly e-mail, showcasing those weeks' columns.

"Finagle" had been addressed! Morris says:
But while the element of outright dishonesty is definitely sometimes part of “finagling,” I would suggest that the usual use of the word carries the implication of bending, perhaps twisting, but not breaking the rules. Crooked stockbrokers may “finagle” with schemes that pauperize their clients, but your average “finagler” is just looking for an angle, an insider’s discount on storm windows or use of the company truck after work. “Finagle” to me is about clever persuasion, not vulgar fraud.
So, yofred, does that make sense; he put it much better than my frazzled explanation.

I love Morris' site. He even reminds readers to "Semper Ubi Sub Ubi," which was featured in one of the Nancy Drew computer games! Coincidence ? Too weird.

Bookmark the site as a go-to reference for all your diction dilemmas, or maybe to find new words to play during bananagrams!


Catherine said...

You might be interested in this Brueggers-like chain that has locations all over Boston. I LOVE IT. http://www.finagleonline.com/

Anonymous said...

Secret of the Scarlet Hand.

Yofred Moik said...

A linguist's explanation of the word definitely clears things up. However, it wont stop me from associating the word with a bagel.