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A wonderful welcome to you, language lovers, and thank you for joining me today! Today we explore a kind of person, and we have all met one of these - I’m sure you know the type. Annoying, grating, the kind that makes you want to roll your eyes at the nature of the situations they seem to put themselves into. I trust of course, dear listener, that today’s word does not apply to you! Today’s word is: lickspittle. A lickspittle is described as ‘a fawning subordinate; a suck-up’. The kind of person, say, who might pipe up in class to ask a confusing and unnecessary question about the non-required reading, just to prove to the teacher and the class that they actually bothered to do it. Or perhaps it’s the kind of person who inexplicably carries your bag, brings you coffee, and shines your five dollar Kmart shoes, when you don’t require any of these things to be done at that moment, and certainly not by them.  The word ‘lickspittle’ is a compound word, made up of ‘lick’ and ‘spittle’, the latter having the meaning ‘saliva’. ‘Spittle’ is an alteration of dialectal ‘spattle’ which comes from the Old English ‘spātl’, which in turn is related to ‘spǣtan’ which can mean ‘to spit’ or ‘to squirt’. Ew. The word ‘lick’ comes from Old English ‘liccian’, from Proto-West Germanic ‘*likkōn’, and can be compared to Old Irish ‘ligid’, the Latin ‘lingō’ or ‘ligguriō’ meaning ‘to lap or lick up’, and the Ancient Greek ‘leíkhō’. ‘Lick’ has multiple meanings as both a noun and a verb, and can be used to connote a range of things from the literal ‘licking of an ice cream’ to the more musical ‘guitar licks’ all the way to describing something small, like ‘a lick of good luck’.  Isn’t language wonderful?  

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