Word of the Week: Parlous

So, avuncular (unclelike), saturnine (sluggish), sybaritic (pleasure-loving), antediluvian (primitive), concomitant (accompanying), uxorious (fawning), lucubrate (laborious studying), vulpine (foxlike), fissiparous (fractious), skeuomorph (look it up yourself), obdurate (stubborn), syllepsis (zeugma) and how about parlous?

So, parlous. Snug between parlormaid (one word!) and the Italian city Parma, parlous (PAR-luss), an adjective, is defined by Webster’s Fourth as “perilous; dangerous; risky.” I like this word because you can fit it into a sentence and it doesn’t matter if you are saying perilous or parlous, like this:

“Dadgum, Boys, drinkin’ ’nat-dare moonshine shore iss parluss.”

See? Fun.

Parlous apparently has its roots in a Middle English contraction of perilous, but it is interesting to contrast the accepted definition with two uses that Webster’s now says are archaic. The first is “dangerously clever; cunning, mischievous, shrewd, etc.” Like this:

“Dadgum, Boys, my cousin Clem’s oldest boy, LaVerne, shore iss a parluss feller; weren’t no pig in ’nat poke he solt me no how.”

The second switches parts of speech to adverb: “extremely, very.” Like this:

“Dadgum, Boys, parluss drinkin’ shore gives me uh noggin-pain.”

For some reason, this word is quite popular, even though the more common synonym perilous is close at hand.

  • Australia faces the parlous challenge of juggling trade relations with the three key economies of Eastern Asia, all of whom covet free trade.
  • I recently wrote two articles in which I discussed the parlous condition of roads, highways and byways in Nigeria.
  • Hedge fund clients pulled out more money than they put in over the past month in spite of a strong performance, in a possible sign of nerves that the parlous state of major economies could hit their returns.

1 thought on “Word of the Week: Parlous

  1. Pingback: Word of the Week: Crepuscular « Patos Papa

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