• postiche •
pahs-teesh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, adjective
Meaning: 1. A small hairpiece to cover up a bald spot, false hair, a toupee. 2. A sham, something that is false or counterfeit, a fake. 3. (Architecture) A mismatched decoration added later.
Notes: When you are in posh company and the words fake and counterfeit are too pedestrian to use, today's Good Word will fill in glamorously. It is French, after all! It is so recent that it has retained its French pronunciation and hasn't had time to create a family of derivations. But beware! Do not confuse this word with pastiche "hodgepodge".
In Play: We don't often hear today's word used in the sense of a wig, but when we wish to emphasize a hairpiece's intent to deceive, it fits perfectly: "Norman French wears a cheap postiche, one that is so obvious it should be embarrassing." We often don't think of our own fakery, all the places our word would fit today: "Her library contained only postiches, fake book spines resembling real books. How pretentious!"
Word History: This borrowed French word came to French from Italian posticcio. Posticcio is based on posto "place, position" from Latin positus, the past participle of ponere "to place". There should have been an intervening Vulgar (Street) Latin word posticius between positus and posticcio, but if such a word existed, we have no written evidence of it. Ponere, as was mentioned in the Word History of entrepot, is believed to be the remnants of an old compound (a)po-sinere "to leave off" comprising apo- "off, away" + sinere "to leave", of obscure origins. The loss of the initial A may be explained by 'aphesis', a process by which an initial unaccented vowel is dropped. A current example from English is opossum, which is pronounced 'possum in some regions.
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