Word of the Week: Nom de Guerre

KNOW some French. It’s great not just for a visit to Paris, but because the English language is replete with French words: raison d’être, coup d’état, coup de grâce, joie de vivre. And in the world of cooking and cuisine, there’s just a whole parade of them: soufflé, sauté, foie gras (pronounced FWA-grah) and croissant (KWA-sohn, not KROY-sant), and that before-the-meal salutation, bon appétit (silent ‘t’).

Then, there’s entrepreneur, a word—among several others—that has made George W. Bush famous for his subpar intelligence (“The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”)

Our word this week, nom de guerre, is taken from a recent New York Times piece, Osama bin Laden Feared Wife’s Tooth Held a Tracking Device. The article revealed that the Al Qaeda leader signed off as Abu Abdallah in one of his letters, expressing his fears that an Iranian dentist had planted a tracking device in his wife’s tooth, so small it was “the length of a grain of wheat and the width of a fine piece of vermicelli.”

Here is the word:

nom de guerre (n)
(plural: noms de guerre – pronounced the same, with a silent ‘s’)
an assumed name under which a person engages in combat or some other activity or enterprise.

French, literally ‘war name.’

Related to nom de guerre is another word to jot down in your vocabulary book:

nom de plume (n)
(plural: noms de plume – pronounced the same with a silent ‘s’)
a pen name.

early 19th cent.: formed in English from French words, to render the sense ‘pen name,’ on the pattern of nom de guerre. French, literally ‘feather,’ also ‘quill.’

Not sure how to pronounce nom de guerre or nom de plume, or anything else you can’t quite figure out? Visit howjasay.com.

I invite you to write to me at  viv@mywritinghome.com if you have any word ideas you’d like to share.


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