Bazaar - bizarre

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Don't confuse the near homophones bazaar and bizarre. Both are usually pronounced 'ber-ZAAR' IPA: /bə 'zɑːr/ in normal quick speech, though bizarre is distinguished in precise and careful speaking IPA: /bɪ 'zɑːr/.

  • A bazaar is a place where goods may be bought and sold.
    • Originally Persian, the word meant "An Oriental market-place or permanent market, usually consisting of ranges of shops or stalls, where all kinds of merchandise are offered for sale" (OED).
    • From that precise beginning, the term was extended, sometimes as an advertising gimmick, to all kinds of retail outlets in the English-speaking countries.
    • Now, it is mainly used, in Britain at any rate, for 'a temporary [for a weekend, one day or less] voluntary retail operation, often selling surplus goods, to raise money for some charitable purpose'.
It may be worth recording that Marks and Spencer, the famous retailer, began as 'The Penny Bazaar', selling a range of cheap goods under the slogan "Don't ask the price, it's a penny". Michael Marks (1859-1907), a Polish refugee, may have named the stall in accordance with this entry from a contemporary dictionary: "Marts bearing the name of bazaars, for the sale of miscellaneous articles, chiefly fancy goods, are now to be found in most European and American cities" (The century dictionary, 1889).
  • Bizarre (which in very careful speech is distinguished from bazaar by enunciating the '-i-' long: 'bee-ZAAR', /biː 'zɑːr/) is an adjective meaning 'exceptionally strange', 'remarkably odd', 'fantastic', 'freakish', 'grotesque' or 'at odds with the majority'. It is usually applied to matters of taste, like clothing, style or eccentric behaviour. It is a word from southern Europe, found in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, but adopted into English from French.