Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahk-ê-may-mee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Absurd, foolish, outlandish, implausible, crazy, unrelated to reality.

Notes: This word was popular in the 1930s and 1940s but its popularity has dipped a bit of late, though we do hear it from time to time. It lives alone without any derivational kinswords.

In Play: This is a good word to toss into conversations with your grandparents, who will remember it with fondness: "Grandpa, where did you get that cockamamie hat you are wearing?" It is such a funny vocabulary item that we should try to pass it on to the next generation, too: "A fox jumped in the front window and caused you to swerve the car into a tree? Do you expect me to believe a cockamamie story like that?!"

Word History: In the middle of the 19th Century decals became a mania in Victorian Britain, so much so that Britons borrowed a word from French, decalcomania "mania for decals" to describe it. (Our current word, decal, by the way, is a clipping of that word.) The French word, decalcomanie "mania for (tombstone) tracings," resulted from the previous mania in Europe. This word is made up of the prefix de- "from, off" + calquer "to copy, trace" + manie "mania". So what has this cockamamie story to do with the word under discussion? Cockamamie is, in fact, nothing but a corruption of decalcomania that gained currency over the years to become the whimsical slang adjective it is today.

Dr. Goodword,

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