Busk it, daddy, eight to the bar
There was some discussion among the editors last night about a word in one of the articles commemorating the late William Donald Schaefer, a passage describing Harborplace that included the passage “brick promenades that get jammed with buskers and balloon-animal artists.”
Buskers, it was argued, was too obscure a word for our readership, too British, and indeed it had only been used once previously in The Sun, back in 2003. But the lack of a more common word to describe musicians who perform in the streets and subways for voluntary donations was persuasive in allowing the passage to stand. Troubadors and minstrels seemed even less apt. Street performers is dully literal-minded.
Busk, the verb for performing thus, comes to us from the French brusquer, the Italian buscare, and the Spanish buscar, “to seek.” The word originally had a nautical sense, “to cruise about,” which evolved into the sense of “to go around selling” and thus performing. We are, of course, aware that some people take encountering an unfamiliar word as a personal affront, but sometimes we like to take a little risk.
One more: While I was off yesterday, at least until Mr. Schaefer joined the choir invisible, I neglected to post that your word of the week is up on the site. It is egregious.