What's in a Word | All Blogs


A winsome word for ‘lazy’

By Debra Dobbins

My English-teacher heart skipped a beat this morning as I read on page D1 Rachel Sauer's delightful advice on Respecting the Language. In my humble opinion, she showed quite exquisite editorial taste by putting caps on those two words.  As I've noted before, working with others who truly care about words is my chief pleasure here.

Sauer's feature even merited some space in the Sentinel's “skybox” — the words and graphics that appear at the very top of page one. The words above, including “lackadaisical,” were copied from that spot.

In modern usage “lackadaisical” has taken on the meanings of “lazy” or “indifferent.” Webster's notes that it can also mean “listless” or “languid.”

On hot summer days and nights I often veg out on my back porch or at outdoor concerts. If that means I am lackadaisical, then so be it. I just view such sloth as being indifferent to chores that can, indeed must, wait for another day, preferably one that's cold and rainy.

This five-syllable word appears to have evolved from a two-syllable word: alack. That was an interjection to express regret, and its first-known use was in the 15th century, according to merriam-webster.com.

Later the word expanded to “alackaday” and then to “lackadaisy.” From that noun form came the adjective “lackadaisical.”

Illustration special to the Sentinel

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