In a Word: Quidnunc

November 29, 2010|By John McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar -- another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. Use it in a sentence in a comment on his blog, You Don't Say, and the best sentence will be featured next week.

This week's word: quidnunc

Coined in the 18th century by combining the Latin quid, "what," and nunc, "now," quidnunc indicates a person who is perpetually asking "What now?" That is, a quidnunc is an inquisitive person, a gossip, a busybody, a rumor-monger. The Oxford English Dictionary adds "newsmonger."

Small towns are nests of quidnuncs, and living among them amounts to operating under constant surveillance. Newspaper offices, as you would expect, are much the same.

Example: The OED quotes Cowper: "Acknowledge now ... that I should make no small figure among the quidnuncs of Olney."

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