Monday, February 13, 2012

Word of the Week - Finagle & Maneuver

You get two for the price of one today. =)

I can't tell you how many times in historical writing I have the urge to use the word "finagle." You know, like She finagled him up the aisle. Or He finagled his way out of it. Something to convey some tricky footwork, so to speak.

But I generally can't, because finagle didn't come about until 1926. Really late! And at the time, it meant to cheat at cards. One authority says it's related to figgle, which is to fidget. Hmmm. Either way, it's modern meaning of some fancy (and likely questionable) maneuvering is waaaaaay too new to use in any of my historicals.

So then I have to think of what word I can use, and I inevitably fall back on maneuver. Maneuver has been around since the 15th century with a meaning of "hand labor." (Man meaning hand, that's no surprise.) But in the mid-1700s, it was applied to military movements. And from there, it was a quick jump to "artful plan, adroit movement." More what I'm usually looking for.

But wait! Interestingly, the noun came first. The verb was actually a back-formation and didn't make its literary debut until 1777. Thus far safe for all my historicals, but if I ever write earlier than that, I'm going to have to keep that in mind!

So there you have it. Some interesting factoids to help you maneuver through your week. ;-)

2 comments:

  1. That IS late for finagle (and it's SUCH a good word!). Glad you found your alternative. :)

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  2. I love your word posts. I really enjoy learning more about the words we use. Thanks for sharing!!

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