• maquette •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A scale model of a construction project, as a maquette of a shopping center.
Notes: There is a phenomenon in linguistics known at TOT: the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. You have probably had a word on the tip of your tongue without being able to remember it; it makes you visibly agitated. The reason is that you can often remember how many syllables are in the word, where the accent falls, maybe even the letter it begins with. I think that this happened to someone trying to think of maquette and they said the closest word they could think of, which was mockup. If so, this would explain why the two words resemble each other in sound and meaning even though mock seems marginally related at best. No proof; just good, clean speculation.
In Play: Today's Good Word is used most widely among property developers of various ilk: "Jessie Noff always kept 2-3 maquettes of other architects' projects in her office to impress her clients." But if you are tired of calling two-dimensional people homunculi, here is an alternative: "Sturgis proved that he is a mere maquette of a man when, at the party for those recently laid off, he proclaimed that it was a lot of fun and we should do it more often."
Word History: This is obviously a French word English swallowed whole. The French picked it up from Italian macchietta "sketch", the diminutive of macchia, which itself came from Latin macula "spot". It is a pretty good guess that macula goes back to PIE *sme(i) "rub, smear, spread", since the Fickle S before a consonant is notoriously loose in PIE and given to dropping off occasionally. It stuck in German schmieren and English smear.
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