Word of the Day: Nonpareil

Today’s word of the day is appropriate, because all of you are readers nonpareil.

Nonpareil (nahn-puh-REL). Adjective. Having no equal; unrivalled, incomparable, peerless, unique.

Many of you might know this word from the candy which shares a name. We call them sprinkles, but I wish we used the Australian name–Hundreds and Thousands—because it is obviously so much better. I digress.

Sprinkles might be called nonpareils, but the word itself has a lot more to offer. It comes to us today from medieval poets, who used it to describe loves and kings, though not necessarily in that order. “[I] haue a nounparalle maystres,” The Duke of Orleans wrote in an English poem around the year 1450, for example: “The which hath hool my service & myn hert.

In another middle English poem, a French knight asks a bunch of Scottish knights about their king. One speaks up: “[I] sey for trouthe that he is Le nounpareil that euir [I] sawe or herde speke of.” Strong words.

Some time later, the word descended from the pages of poetry and made its way into the streets. In 1730, for example, you could go to the bookstore and pick up a copy of A treatise of buggs. By John Southall, maker of the nonpareil liquor for destroying buggs and nits. This isn’t a joke. You can read the book on Google Books.

Despite Mr. Southall’s best effort, nonpareil is still a wonderful word to describe things that are unequaled. Like all of you. I hope you all enjoy a weekend nonpareil.

Just watch out for “buggs.”

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