Friday, 3 February 2012

Word of the day - niche

Today's word is niche, used as a verb. In fact, used at a meeting that I recently attended, in the sentence "We have to niche up some of the messages." It is interesting that niche seems to take the preposition "up" although it could just as well have taken the opposite - "niche down". accepts niche as a verb and gives the brief definition "to place [something] in a niche." Google's definition search facility amplifies this definition: Place or position (something) in a niche: "these elements were niched within the shadowy reaches"; "decorated with niched statues". (NB: to use the Google definition search, you just type in the word and add the word "definition", e.g. "irony definition").

The meaning of the illustrative sentence I have given you is that we must position ourselves with a wide range of interested groups, even though they may be small, by targeting our messages more explicitly. I guess that's a good idea.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Word of the day

Today's word is caveat, used as a verb. Used in a meeting right here, yesterday. But I loved it at first sight. In fact, this usage goes back some time. 

We all know what a caveat is in normal usage - it is used in the sense of a qualification or warning, a limitation to a statement's face value meaning. It is from Latin, and is used in Latin expressions such as caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

Here's an example from the Wiktionary of this usage, from former US Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig, famous for his creative use of English: 'I'll have to caveat my response, Senator, and I'll caveat that' - from Robert McCrum's The Story of English.

The legitimacy of Haig's usage as been debated, but as McCrum says, he was simply displaying the virtuosity of English, if not its grace. Don't caveat me, and I won't caveat you.