Full warning on this week’s vocabulary explanation: The answer may not be quite as satisfying as you hope. In fact, it might leave you hankering for more.

My Ever Patient Partner in Life (aka, EPPIL) and I were having one of the most challenging conversations we have daily—what did we want for dinner? We work through our cravings and things we don’t want on a given day until we can agree on a good menu. During the debate, I said I had a hankering for a specific dish.

Yes, my Southern slips out without warning. A word or phrase escapes before I realize it. EPPIL, amused at my utterance, suggested I use that word for this week’s Spectacular Vernacular.

Now I do love a challenge. I’m also smart enough to understand that “Yes, Dear” are the smartest words you can utter in a relationship. So here we are.

First, for the purist, hankering does appear in the dictionary and is a noun meaning a strong desire or wish. Its verb form is hanker. So a person can have a hankering for a cup of coffee or a person hankers for a cup of coffee. How useful. And where is my coffee?

The first step of etymology is quite easy since the Dutch word hunkeren also means a craving. You can follow that back to the Flemish hankeren as well as the original meaning of the Dutch hunkeren, or to hang or hang around. Specifically the meaning is to hang around craving something.

Theoretically, you can trace it all the way back to the Sanskrit sankate as the root of “to hang,” but that is quite a stretch since the meaning has evolved so far.

And so there you go with an explanation of a most useful word.

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