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Feb 20, 2006
This week's theme
Red-herring words

This week's words

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with Anu Garg


(seks-TET) Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

The word sextet has nothing to do with sex, unless of course, the six people in question engage in some questionable calisthenics. That's what the English language does -- often leading us on, only to make things limpid in the end. There we go again.

Take the word friable, for instance. All the evidence leads us to suggest this word could be used to refer to raw potato chips. But in truth, something friable is that which could be easily crumbled. Well, it could be used to refer to potato chips, after all.

This week we visit these red-herring words, words with meanings that are not the first things that come to mind. (limpid = clear)

1. A group of six.
2. A group of six singers or musicians, or a piece of music composed for them.

Alteration of sestet, influenced by Latin sex (six).

"With the local hockey sextet locked in a Stanley Cup series it would be loyal to stop by and pick up a six-pack."
Dick Kreck; Raise a Glass to Avs; The Denver Post; May 18, 2001.

See more usage examples of sextet in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. -Joanna Macy, writer and teacher (1929- )

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