Word Hoard

Friday, August 11, 2006

How Clique.

So I was playing bean bags with a friend, and we were talking about the sizes of our respective academies. I mentioned there were eighteen in my graduating class. A conversation ensued about the size of DAA and whether or not there were cliques. I said there weren't because we were too small to be exclusive. She said that small groups of friends were cliques and that I should look it up in the dictionary. I figured that "clique" was sorta a tricky word to spell, so I asked her how to spell cliques, so I could look it up. She confidently said,"c-l-i-c-h-e-s." This gave me a perverse thrill, giving someone an opportunity to spell a word and then using that opportunity to gently show them the error. So we had a nice chuckle and are still friends.

Now is the time for the really thrilling stuff. (I'm winging it from here on out. Join me on my journey.)

American Heritage @ Bartleby.com says that cliche comes from French clicher the past tense of the imitative sound that the matrix makes when dropped into the molten metal to make a stereotype plate.
That was going to be my guess. Okay, I confess: I wasn't going to guess that in many years, probably never. But that is also definition number one in my OED: Cliche Hist. A metal stereotype or electrotype block. M19.

I never really thought of a stereotype being anything other than an endowed jumping, or bean counting, or dry cleaner owning, or poor dancing person. So what is a stereotype? Back to the OED. Never mind. I'd have to get the other volume. What does Bartleby say? (besides, I'd prefer not to.) Printing A metal printing plate cast from a matrix molded from a raised printing surface, such as type.

I like the idea that printing has donated these words, stereotype and cliche, for unoriginality. Until printing we only had old wives to pass on trite sayings. Prejudices came from somewhere else I guess. Unless those old wives are bigots too. Printing allows us to disseminate many ideas, but it also allows us to disseminate the same idea. Tricky.

Now for clique. OED [Old & mod. French, from cliquer make a noise, from Middle Dutch klikken Click verb.] A small exclusive group; a coterie. Now we're getting somewhere.
Coterie [French (in Old French = tenants holding land together), ult. from Middle Low German kote cote noun 1] A small exclusive group with common interests; esp. a select social group. That is nice, but here is what we are looking for: cot [Old English cot = Middle Low German, Middle Dutch, Old Norse kot from Germanic base (cf. Old Norse kytja hovel) rel. to that of cote noun 1.]

It works for me that a small exclusive group of people is rooted in a meagre dwelling. It is better to be open.


  • At August 13, 2006 1:46 PM, Blogger Michael Covarrubias said…

    So then I might have been wrong to roll my eyes and make fun of those students who say "my high school was full of clicks."

  • At August 13, 2006 10:48 PM, Blogger Buffy Turner said…

    Tricky indeed.

    (A most lovely entry, Daniel.)

    Now I'm in a fervent frenzy, trying to figure out who this beanbagging compatriot was.

    And don't worry: I don't expect you to reveal the name. It wouldn't be half as much fun that way, anyway.


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