Word of the Week: Busk


He was the cellist in a string quartet that busked at Christmas.

This is an awesome word, for more than one reason. The first, is that the most common definition is to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place, usually for money.  I have a major soft spot for musicians, especially those who share at least part of their gift freely with those who couldn’t afford to buy a CD or download a song or go to a concert.

I found this word through research for my Christmas Story. I asked a musical question and some wonderful musicians gave me an overabundance of fabulous ideas. One of their responses included this word. I’d heard it before but didn’t really pay attention to it. My current project is an M/M Romance, so I immediately saw my two main characters, dressed in appropriate holiday finery, playing carols on a streetcorner against a backdrop of decorated shop windows and snow flurries. Sadly, they don’t get to do this; maybe in another story.

When I popped into Kiddo’s room to share my shiny new word she looked at me as though I’d just discovered the word ‘sing’, or ‘musician’. Which cracked me up, and then made me think. Too often if I’m reading a very engaging story and the author includes enough context, I won’t delve deeper into a new word but just keep reading. As a reader, that’s great because I love being so immersed in a story that the rest of the world falls away. As a writer, I can only hope to inspire that feeling in a reader. I’ll never be another Faulkner (whom I’ve read, but only with a dictionary nearby), but if I can make the world fall away for a few thousand words then it doesn’t matter whether I end up writing my own version of the Great American Novel.

Another lovely thing about this word is that it’s also a part of a corset. Per Wikipedia: “A busk (also spelled busque) is the rigid element of a corset placed at the centre front . . . intended to keep the front of the corset straight and upright.”

A Google search for this word is very pretty indeed.

Origin per dictionary.com (for all the word geeks out there):

1850–55; perhaps, if earlier sense was “to make a living by entertaining,” < Polari < Italian buscare to procure, get, gain < Spanish buscar to look for, seek (of disputed orig.)

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