View Single Post
Old 05-30-01, 04:21 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: LA, CA, USA
Posts: 38
Post Origin of "Busker"

From Word

Dear Word Detective: I'm going nuts trying to remember a certain word. There's a technical term for the people who stand on the street and play music or juggle or do whatever to entertain people out of their money. I want to say the word incorporates the syllable "bask" in it somewhere. Do you have any idea what word I'm trying to think of? -- Christine

The word you're looking for is "busker," but to say that a busker's intent is simply "to entertain people out of their money"seems a bit harsh. Some buskers have loftier goals. When I worked in Manhattan several years ago, there was a very cultivated older man who spent the every morning playing his violin on the subway platform nearest my apartment. At first I
thought he did it for the money subway riders tossed in his violin case. But after a few weeks I realized that the only piece of
music he knew was the theme from "The Godfather" and that he was playing it over and over again because he wanted to drive everyone on the platform insane.

Today we use "busker" to mean an itinerant musician or other entertainer who puts on impromptu shows on the street or in other unorthodox venues in the hopes, in return, of gathering monetary contributions from passersby. But in the 19thcentury, "buskers" took a somewhat more active approach to money-making. The verb "to busk" comes from the obsolete French word "busquer," meaning "to filch, to prowl or to catch." When "to busk" entered English around 1665, it was as a nautical term meaning "to cruise around, tacking with the wind," and by 1734, figuratively "to seek." By 1867, "to busk" meant "to cruise the seas as a pirate," seeking prey. But by about 1851, "to busk" was also being used in its modern sense to describe artisans or entertainers who went from tavern to tavern in search of buyers or an audience. And while today's buskers may drive us a bit nuts, they cannot make us walk the plank.
Zack! is offline   Reply With Quote