Friday, June 10, 2011

Today's favourite word: Cummerbund


I just updated my membership of 26, the brilliant community of creative business writers. As part of the process, I had to nominate my favourite word. I don't really have one of those. Or if I do, it would probably take days of ruminations to decide what it might be. So, in a hurry, I opted for Cummerbund.

This was a surprising choice. I very rarely attend black tie events, and when I do, I always decline the opportunity of renting a cummerbund. I actively dislike them. And yet, I like the word. It has a pleasant sound; strong vowels; resonant consonants. Say it slowly, and there's even a bit of an eastern mystical mantra going on – the Ummmm followed by the Unnnn. Pleasingly – and another surprise – this connects with the roots of the word.

Cummerbund, I discover, is from the Hindi word kamarband. "Kamar" means waist or loin; band is from "bandhah" – a fetter or something that ties.

This interests me. I'd have thought that a cummerbund, back in the 1600s, when the word was first recorded, had little practical purpose – it was just a clothing accessory. But that would be wrong. It's original use, based on the etymology, was to strap a flabby stomach in place – which is mostly its purpose today, of course.

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