The Wordfoolery Blog is ten years old this year so I decided to treat it to a new theme and banner, I hope you like it. Our weekly dose of word history won’t change though, never fear. This week there’s also a fun word quiz for you to try based on the unusual words explored here during 2018. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share it – it’s free to try, short, and doesn’t save any personal details.
This week’s word is persiflage (pronunciation here). Perhaps you’re familiar with it, but I happened upon it last year and it sent me to the dictionary to discover it’s a noun for
“light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter” (OED)
Considering how much I enjoy a touch of persiflage, I’m stunned I never stumbled on this one before.
Persiflage entered English in the late 1700s as a direct acquisition from French where the verb persifler means “to banter”. It had formed in French by compounding the Latin word per (through) and the French word siffler (to whistle or hiss) which again came from Latin sibilare, to hiss, (think sibilant). A quick online search shows me the most common usage of persiflage now is to describe someone’s approach to a conversation as having “an air of persiflage“. I dare you to aim for that air today.
Until next time happy reading, persiflaging, and word quizzing,