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May 25, 2015
This week’s theme
Terms borrowed from French

This week’s words
politesse

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

The head of a Chinese company has taken 6,400 of his employees to France for a vacation. Chances are your employer isn’t going to charter dozens of planes and take you and your colleagues on a French fling. But don’t lose heart.

We’re bringing France to you, in the form of words from French. This week we’ll feature words from French that are now part of the English language. And we’ll do it for a whole week -- those employees went for only four days. As a side benefit, you won’t have to deal with snooty waiters.

Obligatory note about the pronunciation: The indicated pronunciation is how a term would be pronounced in English. Once a word is adopted into a language, it usually plays by its new language’s rules.

politesse

PRONUNCIATION:
(pol-i-TES, po-lee-)

MEANING:
noun: Formal politeness or courtesy.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Old French politesse (cleanness, polished state), from Italian politezza (polish, smoothness), from Latin polire (to polish). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pel- (skin or hide), which also gave us pelt, pillion, and film. Earliest documented use: 1683.

USAGE:
“How did the loud, fast-talking James Haskell fit in amid the politesse of Japanese culture, with its bowing and eye-lowering?”
Jonathan McEvoy; James Haskell, Written Off as a Loudmouth, Travelled the Globe to Transform His Game; Mail on Sunday (London, UK); Mar 1, 2015.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man. His character determines the character of the organization. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (25 May 1803-1882)

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