Okay, So it’s looking like this may stick. At least for the next little while. Today’s word is one that I love using and as many of my friends will attest, I have been known to seek out occasions to use this word. Granted, sometimes I have had to shoehorn in in but it’s such a fun word, it’s totally worth the effort. You might say that playing with words is my thing. It’s my happy place, something I do for my own personal enjoyment.
In other words, playing around on the linguistic jungle gym is my bailiwick.
There are plenty of synonyms I could use, wheelhouse, domain, even ‘thing’ – as in ‘it’s my thing’ but bailiwick just sounds so cool. It rolls off the tongue. I was surprised to learn that the word bailiwick isn’t as old as I thought it was – it’s late middle English so not exactly new but not a Latin based word either. It does have a secondary meaning (which used to be the primary meaning) which is the one that it literally translates to. The original meaning of bailiwick was “an area under the supervision of a bailiff (this could be a mayor, sheriff, or other official instead of the bailiff we think of today – though I still picture Bull from Night Court whenever I hear that word).” The origin of the word is partly French – the word bailie refers to the official who was ordered to supervise an area.
In France, this area was called a bailliage but the English never liked to steal a word outright, they always made a few changes. When they adopted the use of the word bailie, they added the word wik to the end. Wik in middle English meant village (it’s also the root word for a town name like Greenwich – literally ‘green village’) so bailiwick became the area or village that fell under the supervision of the bailie. Surprisingly, there are still a few official bailiwicks left in the United Kingdom today – the islands of Jersey and Guernsey are legally bailiwicks.
With only two bailiwicks of the traditional sense left, it is the new meaning that has me using this word whenever I can. The modern definition of bailiwick is a person’s “specific sphere of interest, or area of expertise”. So, really, writing, and more specifically, grammar is my bailiwick. What’s yours?
Bailiwick – (bai·li·wick ) Noun
i) A person’s specific sphere of interest or area of expertise.
ii) The area in which a bailiff has jurisdiction.