What’s a fandangle?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: fandangle…

Occasionally, in my search for a word-of-the-week, I look not for unusual words, whose definitions lie just outside my grasp. Instead, I search for showy terms. Interesting ones. Words that have a bit of spunk to them. Today’s word,  fandangle, taken from the Ian McEwan novel Black Dogs, falls into this category.

Here’s how McEwan used it:

Right from the start, the [Communist] Party and all it stood for, all that mumbo-jumbo about the common ownership of the means of production, the historically and scientifically ordained inheritance of the proletariat, the withering away of the whatever, all that fandangle, was associated in my mind with beech woods, cornfields, sunlight, and barrelling down those hills, down those lanes that were tunnels in summer.

The noun, which means “useless ornamentation,” or “an ornate but useless ornament” dates back to 1835 and is thought to come from the Southern US, perhaps an alteration of fandango, a lively Spanish dance. Interestingly, the Urban Dictionary also lists fandangle as a verb, meaning ” to obtain by unscrupulous means.”

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