What's in a Word | All Blogs


An apt venue for an American star

By Debra Dobbins

Lady Gaga brought down the house last Friday night at Lollapalooza in Grant Park in Chicago. (Yes, that’s the same park in which President Obama delivered his acceptance speech in 2008.) Considering her scaled-down, yet over-the-top performance, it was fitting that she appeared at this venue.

The word “lollapalooza” means “something or someone very striking or unusual,” according to Webster’s. It is an Americanism, a word coined in America and sometimes exported to the rest of the world.

If you riffle through a dictionary, you will see hundreds of words preceded by a star. The star indicates that the word is an Americanism.

Perhaps the Americanism that has been most exported to the rest of the world is OK. According to Webster’s, “The term was coined in a Boston newspaper in 1839 as an abbreviation of the comic misspelling oll korrekt and was subsequently popularized as the name of a political club supporting President Martin Van Buren, who was nicknamed Old Kinderhook from his birthplace.”

You could be anywhere from Mumbai to Mozambique, and a taxi driver will understand the word OK. Thanks to satellite radio and TV, the driver may even be able to hum a few Lady Gaga tunes. Getting him to understand “lollapalooza” could be trickier....

 

 


 

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