Sunday, December 29, 2019

Word of the day: lackadaisical

I always thought that lackadaisical suggested slackerly indifference. Merriam-Webster agrees, saying that the word “implies a carefree indifference marked by half-hearted efforts.” And lo, M-W gives this example: “lackadaisical college seniors pretending to study.”

But wait — there’s more. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this sole definition:

Resembling one who is given to crying “Lackaday!”; full of vapid feeling or sentiment; affectedly languishing. Said of persons, their behaviour, manners, and utterances.
The word comes from the interjection lackadaisy, with the suffixes -ic and -al added. The OED identifies lackadaisy as an extended form of lack-a-day, which itself is an shortened form of alackaday,
used to express grief, concern, or regret at the events of a particular day; (later more generally) used to express surprise or dismay about a current situation.
Alack the day is another way of putting it.

A choice citation, from The Tender Husband (1705), a play by Richard Steele:
Alack a day, Cousin Biddy, these Idle Romances have quite turn’d your Head.
To care and not to care: it seems that lackadaisical points in both directions. I am not lackadaisical about that. Nor am I lackadaisical about that.

comments: 2

Tororo said...

I remember the first time I stumbled on the word "lackadaisy" in some English text, and assumed it referred to some poor soul that was just a daisy away from being happy.

Michael Leddy said...

That makes sense to me. :)