There were really only two things on page 22 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition: barbiturate and barometer. Really: it was amazing. I understand barometer. It was all pressure related words. But it was remarkable how many words had to do with barbiturates. Just the same, that was a time when there was still memory of people dying a lot for them. Hail the benzodiazepines! But there were other words, so today’s is barcarole.
Barcarole and Beyond
There were some other interesting words beside barcarole, of course. For example: barghest. This is some kind of ghostly apparition that is supposed to be an omen of death. I have a curious relationship with death. I really don’t fear it. At the same time, I wonder how I would feel if I were staring it right in the face. I know that any freak-out that I experienced would just be genetic encoding. But it wouldn’t make it any less unpleasant. The point is that I wonder how I would react if a barghest appeared to me tonight. Probably okay. I’m most okay with death when I’m half asleep.
Anyway, enough of that. On to “barcarole.”
1. a Venetian boat song or a piece of music in imitation of this.
Date: late 18th century.
Origin: from the French word barcarolle, which means exactly what barcarole means. In fact, the word is often spelled the same way in English. Where the French got the word, I don’t kow.
Example: But whether I am faking on a player piano, or striking the chords with my own mind and hands, the song of my life is equally suspenseful and full of surprises as it rolls off the pulsating sounding board of destiny — a barcarole that either way will leave. —Bulletin of the New York Public Library