Wacky Word Wednesday: Fanfaronade

You probably come across this week's wacky word more than you know. Described in the Macquarie Dictionary as ‘bragging; bravado or bluster' it's the kind of behaviour we're not unused to seeing, probably more so among the rich and famous. If you were paying attention you probably saw some of it at this week's Oscars ceremony. Well, now when you come across a boastful, blustering braggart's crowing you have one perfect word to describe it – fanfaronade.

Fanfaronade, or arrogant or boastful talk, has its origins in French. Around the mid-17th century it comes up in English in Sir Thomas Urquhart's Logopandecteision (or An Introduction to the Universal Language – actually, I'm sensing some fanfaronade in that title…). Sir Thomas was a Scottish writer and translator who is most famous for his translations of Rabelais. In Logopandecteision he wrote:

“The Gasconads of France, Rodomontads of Spain, Fanfaronads of Italy.”

So, he clearly thought the Italians were a boastful bunch. (The French and Spanish don't get off lightly either – the gasconade referred to the supposedly arrogant Gascons of France and the rodomontads of Spain have been named after an extravagant and boastful King of Algiers.)

Fanfaronade comes to us straight from the french fanfarronadde, which also means boastful behaviour. Fanfarronadde comes from fanfaron, or a braggart, which in turn comes from fanfare – the same word we use in English meaning ‘an ostentatious flourish or parade'.

In modern English you'll still come across a bit of fanfaronade. Here's an example from a 2013 article in The Guardian:

I'm new in town, and I've joined a [dating] site for the first time. Having indulged in outrageous fanfaronade on my profile page and started shopping for mates, I noticed that hardly any of the other singletons on sale – male or female – listed fiction by women in their ‘favourite books' section.

(As an aside, the article, a reaction to a Canadian lecturer boasting he won't teach women writers in his literature lectures, is well worth reading.)

Here's an older example but one that rather neatly describes Mr Axelrod in the 1965 film How to Murder Your Wife:

[Marriage] is something to be shunned by those uncaptured and rebelled against by those who are hooked. Indeed, so completely anti-marriage is Mr. Axelrod's fanfaronade, which he has diabolically compounded by producing it handsomely with those two comic fellows.

So take heart – there's no reason you can't use a bit of fanfaronade in your own writing. Give us your examples in the comments below.

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