July 1, 2013

Case File #013.07.01: MAWKISH

Mawkish means “disgustingly sentimental,” but its family tree leans more towards the repulsive than the saccharine. You see, it turns out that the adjective is a direct descendant of the Middle English noun mawke, which meant “maggot,” and for about two hundred years or so, mawkish actually meant “maggoty.” Around the mid-seventeenth century, the meaning shifted to “sickly” and “nauseated,” and the now familiar schmaltzy sense soon followed and quickly became the word's primary meaning. In some parts of the English-speaking world, however, mawkish retains a connection to its maggoty roots and is used to mean “having an unpleasant or putrid flavor,” though this usage is usually considered informal or slangy.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

1 comment:

  1. Oh boy, is this going into my vocabulary for re-enactment events. I love a good swear word.