Picture of a man selling white things to illustrate the vocabulary word "cajole"
Seriously, what ARE those little white bags?


What does “cajole” mean?

Part of Speech: VERB

Pronunciations: IPA: /kə.ˈdʒoul/ Glossary-style: [kuh-JOL]

Definition: persuade or urge someone to do something by repeatedly asking, by teasing, or by using praise or flattery (Ex: I tried to cajole my mother into letting me borrow her car.).

Example: A consummate interrogator, the police detective was able to coax out a confession from the criminal suspect by alternately cajoling and criticizing him.

Discussion: “cajole” is a great word. When we cajole somebody, we bug, nag, whine, annoy, flatter, coax, and wheedle. In a word, we say or do whatever we need to do in order to get what we want.

Children often bug or nag their parents for toys, candy, and the like, but this tecnique is more akin to nagging, whining, and bugging (i.e., asking repeatedly) than it is to cajoling, coaxing, or wheedling. These latter words imply a bit more sophistication than the simple repeated questions, often uttered in a whiny voice, asked by children.

Salespeople might try to cajole prospective customers into buying something. For example, a salesman trying to sell a gym membership might say to the interested person, “You look to be in great shape already, and you’d fit right in here. We could help you maintain your great physique!”

That’s an example of cajolement. An insincere, transparent example, but that’s the idea.

A couple of related notes: “cajole” can use the preposition “into” when it’s used in the same sense as to “talk someone into doing something”. And “cajole” is ultimately etymologically related to the Old French verb “gaioler”, which means to lure into a cage. This is interested to me, as I know from my time studying Portuguese that a “gaiola” is a type of cage, especially a bird cage.

I tell you, if you live long enough, it all starts to come together.

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