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You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: sashay

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's  word:


You probably know people who walk the walk.

The walk, described neutrally by the American Heritage Dictionary as “to walk or proceed, especially in an easy or casual manner,” or less primly as “to strut or flounce in a showy manner,” gets a no-holds-barred explanation from the New Oxford American Dictionary: “walk in an ostentatious yet casual manner, typically with exaggerated movements of the hips and shoulders.”

Yes, to sashay (pronounced sa-SHAY) is to gain attention. It is walking that has affinities with dance. The word comes from the French chassé, a ballet movement of “quick gliding steps with the same foot always leading” (American Heritage).

The sashay is also a square dance figure in which the partners take sideways steps to circle each other.

Example: In case you need instruction, from “Feel Sexy in Your Skin” by Celeste Perron in Cosmopolitan, August 2005: “To strut your stuff, stand tall, keep your neck long and straight, roll your shoulders back and down, and let your hands swing at your sides as you put one foot slightly in front of the other (to make sure you get that catwalk hip sashay).”





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