A word like an awful evening at the symphony. This word brings you the bad music (caca), the bad composer (phony), the bad audience (cough), the bad tuning (off), the stuttering singer (c-c-), the bad conductor (cack-handed), the bad date (get your hand off my knee), the poor intermission beverage selection (coffee only), even the irritating bird outside the concert hall (caw!). And it doesn’t even have a pleasant rhythm – it’s not a nice bar of 4/4 with the ictus on the first syllable; it’s like tripping on a step in the aisle and stumbling for the next three. This word came to us from the Greeks, of course (via Latin), caco from the word for “bad” and phony from the word for “sound” (not the similar-sounding Greek word for “murder,” though one might wonder).

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