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8 February 2010

Mondays word: Chicanery


If you're writing a novel or short story, you can bet there'll be a 'bad guy' (or woman) in there somewhere, setting out to doublecross someone or lead the hero or heroine down the wrong path or cheat them out of their inheritance with their 'chicanery'.

Michael Quinion has this to say about the word:

"Still a common word, you may find it about equally in reports ofsporting trickery and financial double-dealing:

Chicanery is not always discovered and punished, but    the NFL spends millions in attempted enforcement of the    public's trust and then looks the other way after a team    turns its back on ticket-buyers and league partners by    refusing to put its reasonably best product on the field.   
    [New York Post, 2 Jan 2010.]

There's another association with sport that hardly anybody makes.When a racing driver navigates a chicane, etymologically he's on the same track as a trickster.

Both words can be traced to a set of French terms that includes"chicaner", to make a fuss or squabble, "chicanerie", a squabble,and "chicane", legal quibbling or delaying tactics"

I don't know about you, but  I find it fascinating to learn about the origin of words that we sometimes take for granted.

*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2009. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewords.org/