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Alimony is derived from two words or, rather, a name and a word: Ali and money. It is a noun that means a sum of money of a size that falls into a particular range.

Nobody knows what happened to the e in money when it was used to form alimony. Some say it was thrown out of the word after being caught in an unnatural, extralingual coupling with another vowel, reportedly a u. Rumour has it that e and u have frequently been seen together at an intimate beach resort in the Cayman Islands, which, not having an e or u of its own, guarantees to protect the privacy of any that come to visit. But that’s only a rumour.

Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. He was appointed as a caliph in 656 and served in that capacity until his death in 661. However, that’s not the Ali that the word alimony was derived from, so never mind.

The Ali in alimony was Mohammad Ali, nee Cassius Clay. Ali was a championship boxer. Some people, including particularly himself, would say that Ali was the greatest heavyweight fighter ever. He continued to have huge success in the ring almost until he retired in 1981 to enjoy the fruits of his concussions.

Because of his success as a fighter, Ali earned quite a bit of money, but it was never enough to put him the same sort of wealth-class as, say, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Carlos Slim. Consequently, alimony refers to a sum of money that is very large, but not astronomically so. However, that alone is not enough to properly classify it as alimony. The word alimony refers only to a very large, but not astronomically large sum of money that was earned by trying to beat the crap out of another human being. “Beat the crap out of” can be either a literal or rhetorical turn of phrase without disqualifying the sum of money as an alimony.

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