Word of the Week: Bagage [baˈɡaːʃ]


Noun. Riffraff, reprobates, a group of people you generally hold a low opinion of. A loanword from French that made it into the Viennese vernacular by the 15th century, it originally held the identical meaning – just like “baggage” in English – but over time, its use changed to denote a motley crew of tedious, tiresome individuals.

The implication being, of course, that you consider these people Bagage as they’re a bur-den and you tend to carry them around with you (whether you like it or not) – not unlike Prof. Henry Higgins asking “Shall I take her back? Or throw the baggage out?” after falling out with Eliza Doolittle in G. B. Shaw’s Pygmalion.

It can be used derisively, but also as a term of endearment for your friends and family. As always, context is key – playfully referring to your loved ones as your Bagage could be seen as roughly analogous to the English expression “the ol’ ball-and-chain,” but a bitter intonation may be a sign of deep-seated familial resentment.

Considering that Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis in Vienna, it’s not a stretch to assume that some Austrians have their share of emotion al baggage – or Bagage, for that matter.

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