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March 30, 2018  |  Friday words #114, 2018-03-30  |  1943 hit(s)

Today is the last day of March. I sure hope that we've met our Q1 2018 goals here at Friday Words.

This week's new-to-me word came up when I was reading Fire and Fury, the gossipy book by Michael Wolff about the Trump White House. Let me give you the sentence and then we'll talk about the word:
What's more, in one-on-one meetings, CEOs were reporting good vibes from Trump's effusive and artful flattery—and the sudden relief of not having to deal with what some knew to be relentless Clinton-team hondling (what can you do for us today and can we use your plan?).
The book was famously rushed to print, and there were reports of some sloppy editing, so I initially read hondling as handling. That didn't entirely make sense, but I'd never heard the word hondling before, so it was the best I could come up with.[1]

But I eventually looked it up, and whaddya know. To hondle means to bargain or negotiate. It's yet another word in the lexical trove that we've gotten from Yiddish. (In this case, and as is true of many Yiddish words, it goes back to medieval German. The word Handel means "trade, traffic, commerce, business" in modern German.) I will note, tho, that hondle is a pretty rare word in English; it's missing in my normal go-to dictionaries (it is in the OED) and as far as I can tell, it doesn't appear even once in the COCA corpus. Perhaps Wolff will help popularize it.

Let's move to word origins. One of my co-workers showed up today in shorts and a t-shirt; he'd just finished playing badminton. Badminton. Where do you suppose that word came from? Is there such a thing as goodminton? Haha.

I had a hunch about that -ton ending, which was pretty much borne out. Sure enough, there's a place named Badminton in the UK. It shares that -ton ending with a lot of other places in the UK, like Northhampton, Boston, and Paddington.

But why is the game named for the place? Some version of the game has been played for millennia; one name for it in English was battledore and shuttlecock, where battledore is a word for a racquet. A bunch of sources say that the British brought the modern version back from India in the mid-1800s. The specific innovation that led to the modern version of the game seems to have been the idea of playing on two sides of a string or net. Anyway, by 1863, this version of the game was referred to as badminton. The book Lawn Tennis, Badminton, Croquet, Troco, Racquets, Fives, Nurr & Spell, Bowling, Hurling, Etc., Etc. from 1883 has this to say, which features the unusual strategy in which the author asks the reader to confirm an etymological assertion:
People generally agree that the game is named for the estate, but it's not 110% sure why. (First played there? Maybe.) It will do for now.

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[1] Boy, spell-check hates the word hondle; it keeps trying to change it to handle.