• Get on your feet and investgate

                              Get on your feet – and -investigate



Get on your feet and investgate

you are a detective with the Canadian Mounties investigating the theft of a Christmas tree from a cabin in northern Alberta. No surprise – it’s snowing – so you start by looking for footprints. That’s also how the verb “to investigate” got started – by looking at footprints..

If you find the thief’s footprints, they will represent your first trace or vestige of the scoundrel. A vestige is a trace of something (or in this case someone) – often something from a prior time. In biology, vestigial generally refers to an aspect of a plant or animal that is atrophied, residual, or without function. A vestigial organ is one that no longer performs a function it previously performed.

Investigate combines the Latin prefix in (= in) and vestigo – from vestigium – Latin for “footprint.” The word vestige also emanates from the same source. Vestige entered English through French. Modern English and French both use the word vestige in the same way and with the same spelling. They are true cognates – words that are similar in spelling and meaning in two languages that are being compared. We will discuss cognates and how to use them effectively in future issues of Language Lore.

.. Mastering new words and using them accurately, confidently, and without pretension will make you a more interesting and influential communicator.

It took me a while to choose the word to highlight in this first issue of Words that Work. Words were literally dancing through my head. Ultimately, I decided to find a word that started with the letter Q, The letter Q seems to be under-represented in all things alphabetical. Q just doesn’t seem to get much respect.
I also vaguely remembered having encountered the same
Q-word on entrance exams for both college and graduate school.

So the word is…

Quidnunc (KWID nunk)

A quidnunc is a gossipybusybody. Quidnuncs are zealous in acquiring information (possibly false) about what’s going on with everybody and everything. The word comes from two Latin words Quid (What) and nunc (now). You might use it this way:

He was the village quidnunc – always looking for juicy gossip.*

The appearance of quidnunc on multiple entrance exams indicates we should know the word. Quidnunc doesn’t sound too pretentious, but you may want to consider whether it is suited to the audience and occasion. You definitely don’t want to use it in reference to a friend you want to keep.

*Please note I used the male subject pronoun. I think women are too often and//unfairly characterized as the gossipy


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