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kerfuffle
(kurr-FUFF-ull)

Disorder, flurry, agitation.

When you look up kerfuffle in the Oxford English Dictionary, the OED not-too-helpfully defines it with a single word, curfuffle. If you then proceed to look up curfuffle, you'll learn that a curfuffle is a state of "disorder, flurry, agitation," and that a curfuffle also can be called a gefuffle.

Further, the OED will explain, both kerfuffle and curfuffle, derive from the word fuffle. Flip over to fuffle, and you'll learn that fuffle is a verb that means to "throw into disorder" or "jerk about." Fuffle, it turns out, is the linguistic ancestor of kerfuffle and curfuffle, and is onomatopoetic (which I guess would be true if you imagine the sound made when you fuffle a file of papers.

All of which, of course, is enough to throw you into a kerfuffle.

Anyway, kerfuffle is apparently among the favorite words of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who once used it this way:

"Jeffrey Toobin caused a kerfuffle when he wrote in The New Yorker this week that Bill Clinton was interested in running for the Senate from Arkansas in 2002."

 

 

 

 

kibitz

(KIBB-its)

1. To look on and offer unsolicited, meddlesome advice.

2. To chat or make wisecracks (especially when others are trying to work or have a serious conversation).

This handy Yiddishism derives from a picturesque German source: In German, the verb kiebitzen means "to look on while other people are playing cards" (especially if it's done annoyingly, like standing too close). Even more picturesque, this verb derives from German Kiebitz, the name of a type of little bird that has a reputation for being particularly noisy and inquisitive.

"HEY!" Foster finally yelled, "It's hard enough trying to deal with a computer crash without all of you standing around to kibitz!"

 

 

 

 


kickshaw

(KICK-shaw)

1. A culinary delicacy.

2. A trinket or bauble.

Kickshaw is a corruption of the French quelque chose, which means "something."

When the English began using the word kickshaw around the beginning of the 17th century, they usually applied it contemptuously to fancy French food -- i.e., an insubstantial little "something" in contrast to simpler, heartier English fare. Today it also applies to anything dainty or elegant, but relatively worthless.

"Let's get going, dear -- we can always pick up a few kickshaws at the airport."

 

 

 

 

kowtow
(KOW-tow)

To act obsequiously; to fawn or act with deference.

Kowtow, which found its way into English about 200 years ago, is an adaptation of the picturesque Chinese word koutou, which comes from kou meaning "to knock" and tou, meaning "head."

Originally, koutou referred to the Chinese practice of touching one's forehead to the ground in an expression of deep respect and utter submission. Kowtow is also used as a noun in English to denote this act.

"He's so busy trying to kowtow to all those special interest groups, it's a wonder he doesn't get whiplash."

kudos

(KOO-dohss)

Glory; praise.

This word was imported whole from the ancient Greek, where kudos meant "magical glory." Technically, therefore, kudos is singular - which also means there 's no such thing as a kudo.

"By now, of course, Aunt Dorothy was used to accepting kudos for her judo."

 

(c) 1999-2006   Martha Barnette

 
                 
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