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Today's Word



Nov 19, 2018
This week’s theme
Words from music

This week’s words
concert pitch

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with Anu Garg

I came across this news item last month. A court in Saudi Arabia has decided that a woman can’t marry a man because his lute-playing makes him “religiously incompatible” (BBC, permalink).

To which I say: Fiddlesticks!

You can’t say there hasn’t been any progress though. It’s the 21st century and women in some places have just earned the right to drive a car. Check back in the next century and they may be eligible to marry a person of their choosing.

Until then, let’s take solace in music. This week we’ll feature five words that have musical origins.

Go ahead, make use of these musical words. And make music -- you have the right. Drive a car -- you have that right too. Just don’t try to make music while driving. At least, not until Google has finished testing their self-driving cars.



noun:1. The bow with which the fiddle is played.
 2. Something insignificant.
interj.:Nonsense. (typically used as a plural)

From fiddle, from Old English fithele + stick, from Old English sticca. Earliest documented use: 1400s.

The use of the word to refer to something of little value may be related to the fact that the verb fiddle has a contemptuous meaning: to fiddle is to do something frivolous, to do something aimlessly. How did the bow of a violin end up being a synonym for nonsense? No one knows, but any comedian would tell you that words ending in a K sound are funny. And when you have a word starting with F and ending in K, well, it would be a crime not to employ it as an interjection.

“There is no attitude, nor the slightest trace of imperial snobbery. Empress? Fiddlesticks!”
Lawrence Money; Lunch with Lady Primrose Potter Philanthropist; The Age (Melbourne, Australia); Jun 20, 2015.

See more usage examples of fiddlestick in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

Destroying species is like tearing pages out of an unread book, written in a language humans hardly know how to read, about the place where they live. -Holmes Rolston III, professor of philosophy (b. 19 Nov 1932)

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