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It’s funny, I’ve noticed that one learns a lot of vocabulary in science-fiction. This is also true to a lesser degree in fantasy, but it’s mostly science-fiction in my experience. Before you say this is obvious, know that I don’t mean only technical terms. I’ve mentioned that I recently watched Firefly again, and this one popped out at me for the first time:

Palaver, noun & verb. e18

A noun.

1 In W. Africa: a dispute, a contest. e18

b hist. A talk, a conference, a parley, esp. between (African) tribespeople and traders or travellers. m18.


a Unnecessary, profuse, or idle talk. m18.

b Cajolery, flattery. m18.

3 Business, concern. W. Afr. colloq. l19.

4 A tiresome or lengthy business; (a) fuss, (a) bother; trouble. colloq. l19.

B verb.

1 verb trans. cajole, flatter, wheedle, (a person). Also folk. by into, out of. e18.

2 verb intrans. Talk unnecessarily, profusely, or idly; jabber. m18.

The origin of palaver is uncertain, but it’s probably West African pidgin from the Portuguese palavra from the Latin parabola, meaning parable.

I was astonished because in all the times I’ve seen the episode (“Shindig”), I didn’t hear it. This time it was different only because the writer appears in the commentary track, and she mentioned that because the word is no longer in common use, no one knew how to pronounce it. This is doubly strange because I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that commentary track before. Not all of it, apparently.


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  1. Jennifer

    I was introduced to palaver by Stephen King in his Dark Tower series. Once again, science fiction. 🙂

    • Rick

      Nice! Thanks for your comment. It’s good to have another data point. And I know it’s not just me.

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