• doggerel •
daw-gê-rêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Badly written verse, comical poetry.
Notes: Today's word is probably based on doggery, originally referring to a kennel, but later on "a disreputable drinking establishment" and ultimately "obscene language". Someone accused of writing doggerel is a doggerelist. We also have a verb doggerelize, meaning "to write doggerel" or "turn into doggerel".
In Play: Some of the most famous doggerel appeared on Burma Shave roadside signs from 1925 to 1963 which contained one line of doggerel spaced about 1/10 of a mile apart. Would you like an example? "Within this vale/of toil/and sin/ your head grows bald/but not your chin—use/Burma-Shave." "Another," did I hear someone ask? "No pushy/No pully/Smooth shavy/Feel bully/Burma-Shave."
Word History: Today's Good Word is based on doggery, as mentioned above. It clearly relies on the word dog. This word started out as Old English (OE) docga "hound", but by Middle English (ME) it was dogge "cur, (ordinary) dog". It is unlikely that the original docga was a diminutive meaning "darkie, duskie" from the adjective dox "dark, dusky", like OE frox "frog", ME frogga, as many dictionaries claim. The OE word was borrowed by other Indo-European languages like French dogue "mastiff", Dutch dog "mastiff", German dogge "mastiff", Russian dog "great dane". Other languages have words for "dog" that are just as mysterious as English dog: Spanish perro, Polish pies, and Serbian pas have no obvious PIE source, either. (Now yet another thank-you to Rob Towart for reading the bad poem that brought today's Good Word to mind.)
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