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Today's Word



May 8, 2017
This week’s theme
Words originating in running

This week’s words
au courant

“Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.” ~Emerson
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with Anu Garg

Twenty-five years ago I came to America. Ever since, I’ve hitched my fate to this country. I go where this country goes. And I want it to continue to succeed.

I want a president who invests in modern technologies, not one who sends us back into coal mines. I want a president who sees this country as a place where we come up with world-changing innovations, like the Internet, not one who wants to put people on assembly lines.

I want this country to continue to be the one people want to come to, not one that people run away from -- a place that attracts people from all over the world, people who win us patents and gold medals and Nobel prizes. I want a president who unites people, not divides them according to race, color, and religion.

On January 20, as the new president was sworn in, I couldn’t believe it was happening.

My mind weary, I went for a run. After three miles both mind and body were tired, and in sync. Then I came home, logged on to my computer, and signed up to run a marathon.

I have been training for a marathon ever since, and looking forward to running the whole distance in June. When I signed up, I wasn’t sure I could do it, but as I’m slowly increasing my distance, I’m feeling more confident.

Four days a week I run on a trail along a river near my home. After two or three miles, the mind clears. One foot falls after another, one leg goes in front of the other, and the body propels forward. It just goes on and on, as if in a trance. You can call it a kind of meditation, except that instead of sitting quietly in one place, your whole body hurtles through linear space.

It also helps to have some mind tricks. For example, last Saturday, I ran 16 miles. When I started the run, I saw it only as half the distance. I just needed to go forward eight miles. After that, all that’s left is to come back.

I run, rain or shine. In rain, it takes a little longer. I see earthworms on the trail and I stop to scoop them up and put them safely back, off to the side. I also see geese along the trail. They mind their business, chomping away at the grass, rain drops sliding off their backs. But don’t assume these birds are passive. You try to get a little closer to their eggs or goslings, and they hiss, and get nasty.

And so it goes. Sometimes we just have to keep running, pausing only to help those vulnerable among us. And band together and hiss and get nasty when someone tries to break us. If we keep doing this, we can sustain 26 miles or four years. And we can not only sustain, we can overcome.

On one of these runs I started thinking about what words in the English language have their origins in running. This week we’ll see five of them.

au courant

(o koo-RAN) [the last syllable is nasal]

1. Up-to-date; fully-informed.
2. Fashionable.

From French au courant (literally, in the current, i.e. knowledgeable or up-to-date), from Latin currere (to run). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kers- (to run), which also gave us car, career, carpenter, occur, discharge, caricature, cark, discursive, and succor. Earliest documented use: 1762.

“He was a good scholar, tried to keep au courant with the latest archaeological research.”
James A. Michener; The Source; Marjay; 1965.

“The Troubadour makes a point of straddling the classic and au courant.”
Laura Chubb; Southern Comfort; Evening Standard (London, UK); Apr 28, 2017.

See more usage examples of au courant in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers. -Thomas Pynchon, novelist (b. 8 May 1937)

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