Monday, July 21, 2008

Word Tidbits: Describing Naughty Behavior

I was asked recently about whether you could use shenanigans in the singular. While shenanigan appears to be a perfectly acceptable word, I could not find any examples of its having been used, either in definition exemplars or in normal sentences. Except, that is, for examples in which an apostrophe was added in error. There are many examples of “Shenanigan’s” bar or coffee shop or blog. I blame the movie Office Space.

The real reason I am writing this, however, lies not in the shenanigans of apostrophe abusers. I want to remind the world of a fabulous word with a related meaning, one that has sunk beneath the seas of public regard. Yes, I am attempting raise skulduggery from its watery grave.

I’ve always spelled the word with two ls and associated it with pirates. Much to my chagrin, the word appears to be Scottish in origin and has nothing to do with buried treasure and dead men telling no tales. I still like it as a word, however. Meriam-Webster lists both spellings as acceptable and will give you the modern definition.

Don’t forget these two ways to describe the hanky panky perpetrated by others. Label their monkey business appropriately, and call them on their mischief, light-hearted or not.