Odd Words: Brannigan

Zapp BranniganPage 32 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition didn’t have much to work with. But at least we had “brannigan.”

Beyond Brannigan

There were a couple of words today that reminded me of Donald Trump. One is today’s word itself. But there are other things like bravado and bray. I especially think of “bray” when I watch Trump. Bravado is obvious.

There were a couple of words that I didn’t know. The first was “bretelle.” That is “an ornamental shoulder strap.” No surprise that I wouldn’t know a word that had to do with fashion.

The second word was “brisance.” That is more jargon than word: “the shattering power of high explosive.” Now that I think of it — another Trump word!

But on to the chosen word:

Bran·ni·gan  noun  \bra’-ni-gən\

1. a squabble or brawl; a spree.

Date: late 19th century.

Origin: unknown, but apparently based on the last name.

Example: There might be a huge brannigan at tonight’s debate —Frank Moraes (Because, really, how to research a word like this?)

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Odd Words: Brannigan

  1. The OED says its first meaning, though now rare, was “A state of intoxication; hence, a drinking bout; a spree or ‘binge’.” Among several quotes for that usage, there’s one from H.L. Mencken:

    “In the intervals of his washing and polishing Jim took out rigs to the homes of clients of the stable, and thereby sometimes acquired quiet brannigans, for it was the custom to reward him, not with money, but with drinks.”

    • Thanks for that! Great quote.

      I knew of that definition, but I’m sticking with exactly what this stupid book says.

      So there was no more information on possible etymology? I’m quite interested in that. Especially: is there a particular Brannigan that might have started it?

    • Yeah, I was thinking that it would have been great if Bill Cosby had been the VP nominee. Just the same, I’m pretty sure that Mike Pence has the corpses of young boys buried under his house.

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