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I was astonished to learn that the word lacksadaisical or laxadaisical is both misspelled and mispronounced. It is still commonly used in Southern Africa (with the same meaning), whereas it is rare to hear the correct lackadaisical in mainstream use.

Does anyone have insight into the origin of lacksadaisical?

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Probably it got started when somebody who was not familiar with the word misheard it and then tried to use it with other people who were not familiar with it either. And when trying to make sense of the word, associated with the word lax. – Jim Aug 22 '12 at 5:15
@Jim: I couldn't find them in dictionaries(OED, NOAD, etc.). Are they really words? – Noah Aug 22 '12 at 5:19
@Noah As the OP notes, they are common misspellings and mispronunciations of lackadaisical. You won't find an erroneous version in the dictionary except perhaps to indicate that it is a common typo. – coleopterist Aug 22 '12 at 5:46
If we are to take the question as presented, Jim's comment above is the only answer given so far. The rep-earning answers below explain lackadaisical, which doesn't address the question at all. (Whether it is a fair question to ask is another matter.) – John Y Aug 22 '12 at 7:28
@JohnY: I like Jim's theory, too – especially the part about an association with the word lax – but it's going to be rather hard to find the "origin" of a common mispronunciation. (If that's really the question here, I don't want to be oopsydaisical; I'll just cast a "not constructive" vote instead.) – J.R. Aug 22 '12 at 8:29
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The OED spells it as lackadaisical and defines it as

Resembling one who is given to crying 'Lackaday!'; full of vapid feeling or sentiment; affectedly languishing. Said of persons, their behaviour, manners, and utterances.

The first recorded use is in 1768. It is derived from lackadaisy (first recorded in 1748), which in turn comes from lack-a-day, a version of alack the day! or alack-a-day!, originally used to mean ‘Shame or reproach to the day! Woe worth the day!’ but in later usage an expression of surprise (same source).

Variant spellings and pronunciations in South Africa or elsewhere don't surprise me, given the word's chequered history.

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Thanks Barrie - I guess this is lost in the mists of time. I will take great pleasure in correcting my colleagues (or boss :) next time I hear it. – StuartLC Aug 22 '12 at 12:58

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English mentions the following meaning and origin.


lack‧​a‧​dai‧​si‧​cal /ˌ​lækəˈdeɪzɪkəl◂/
not showing enough interest in something or not putting enough effort into it:


Date: 1700–1800
Origin: lackaday expression of sadness (17–19 centuries), from alack the day

Pay attention to the correct spelling and pronunciation.

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Am fully aware of the correct spelling and meaning, as my OP suggests, however the question revolves around the origin of the mispronunciation which has become widespread in Southern Africa. – StuartLC Aug 22 '12 at 6:25

protected by tchrist Jul 6 '14 at 14:09

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