• comeuppance •
kêm-êp-êns • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (No plural)
Meaning: Just deserts, retribution, what they deserve, deserved punishment.
Notes: Here is a word that, unlike importance and extravagance, has no corresponding adjective ending on T: important, extravagant. That is because today's Good Word was contrived from a two-word phrase, come up, with the French sounding suffix -ance tacked on to the end.
In Play: This is not a word you would use in a job interview or write in a college application essay; however, around the house it is OK: "Whoever ate my chocolate pudding will get his comeuppance when Mom gets home!" It fits in many situations at school, too: "The bully got his comeuppance when he thrust his hand into Benny's pocket for Benny's lunch money, and felt the snap of a mousetrap."
Word History: Today's word, as mentioned above, was created from a phrase, come up, plus a misused suffix -ance, come up in the sense of "come up before a court of law". I have been sent by e-mail several essays on the many meanings of up. It would be better to say, "the many functions of up". Up as a verbal particle as in come up, only has only two meanings (1) to move in a vertical direction and (2) "completely". The difference between clean and clean up is the difference between cleaning and cleaning something completely. The difference between the drain being clogged and clogged up is the difference between water moving down the drain slowly and water not moving down it at all. I could go on for pages, but try a few yourself and see. (To avert any comeuppance at all, let's thank Norman Holler for recommending today's very Good if funny little Word.)
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