Printable Version
Pronunciation: kor-kêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Someone who corks bottles. 2. (Regional slang) Something that brings finality, that puts an end to a matter, that 'puts a cork in' something. 3. (Regional slang) Something excellent, outstanding in its class or category.

Notes: Today's Good Word is most common today in New England, so it is a regional slang term. It often is accompanied by a prepositional phrase beginning with of: you can tell a corker of a story or experience a corker of a storm. Any way you use it, it indicates that the noun it modifies is an outstanding example of its class.

In Play: If you travel about Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, you are apt to hear sentiments expressed like this: "I hear that the alphaDictionary Good Words are a corker of a word-of-the-day series." Well, that's the way we dream of it. "That story you told about climbing Mt. Everest was really a corker—whether it was true or not."

Word History: The word cork came to English from Spanish corcho "cork", the Spanish descendant of Latin quercus "oak". Quercus is a descendant of PIE *perkwu-/*porkwu- "oak", in which the [p] became [kw] under the influence of the [kw] in the following syllable. Since PIE [p] became [f] in Germanic languages, we would expect descendants of this same root in these languages to look like firh-, which points the finger to the ancestor of English fir. The regional use of this word, as in a corker of a day, came from the world of baseball. A corker in the 1860s was a hit that flew from the bat like the cork from a champagne bottle, usually a home run. A released champagne cork even gives a pop like a bat hitting the ball.

Dr. Goodword,

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