Mediocre

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Dr. Goodword
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Mediocre

Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed May 05, 2021 6:57 pm

• mediocre •


Pronunciation: mee-dee-o-kêr • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Of middling, undistinguished quality, indifferent, second-rate, not very good.

Notes: Here is a word that has survived a mediocre history. Originally, it meant "average, acceptable" but, unlike average, its meaning has slipped to "unacceptable". It comes with a large family. The noun is mediocrity and the adverb, mediocrely. A mediocre government is a mediocracy, a member of which is known as a mediocrat. The verb is mediocritize.

In Play: Mediocre today has a bad reputation: "Gladys Friday's performance at her previous several firms was mediocre at best of them." Today it refers to things faulty: "I've always heard a camel is a horse designed by a (mediocre) committee."

Word History: Today's Good Word resulted from English shaving the accent from French médiocre. French inherited the word from Latin mediocris "moderate, ordinary", literally "halfway up a mountain", from medius "middle" + ocris "rugged mountain". Medius was passed down from PIE medhyo- "middle", origin also of English mid, midst and middle and borrowings medium, mediate, and many more. Greek mesos "middle" is from the same source. Latin borrowed Greek okris "peak, point", changing its meaning only slightly. Greek created its word from PIE ak- "sharp; point", source also of Welsh ochr "verge, edge", Latin acer "sharp", German Ecke "corner", and English edge. Latin acus and Russian igla "needle" emerged from the same PIE word. Acus underlies several English Latinate borrowings, such as acuity, acupuncture, and acute. (Now let's all give Rob Towart an big e-hug for his sympathetic suggestion of today's misfortunate Good Word.)
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Slava
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Re: Mediocre

Postby Slava » Wed May 05, 2021 7:35 pm

It's interesting how all of the middling words mean poor now. Fair, mediocre, standard, average, par for the course, 3 out of 5 stars, a grade of C, etc. To be average, you must be above average. :?
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David Myer
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Re: Mediocre

Postby David Myer » Wed May 05, 2021 10:09 pm

Ah, Slava, you would remember Garison Keilor's fictitious town, Lake Woebegone, "where all the girls are good looking and all the boys are above average." Certainly not mediocre.

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Re: Mediocre

Postby George Kovac » Thu May 06, 2021 2:57 pm

The most famous defense of mediocracy was made by Congressman Roman Hruska of Nebraska in March of 1970. President Nixon had nominated to the Supreme Court an undistinguished federal judge from Florida whose name was G. Harrold Carswell. Numerous critics described Carswell as “mediocre” and unqualified to serve on the highest court in the land. Hruska leapt to Carswell’s defense, arguing that mediocre people deserved to have representation on the Supreme Court, too.

With a friend like that, Judge Carswell promptly withdrew from consideration. Here is the full quote from Congressman Hruska:

“Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.”
"The messy layers of human experience get pulled together, and sometimes ordered, by words." Colum McCann, But Always Meeting Ourselves, NYT 6/15/09

David Myer
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Re: Mediocre

Postby David Myer » Thu May 06, 2021 8:25 pm

Excellent story, George. I have passed it on to my friend on the Supreme Court bench here in Victoria.

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LukeJavan8
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Re: Mediocre

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat May 08, 2021 12:32 pm

Living in the land of the Flat Water, I well remember
that incident.
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Dr. Goodword
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Re: Mediocre

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat May 08, 2021 9:54 pm

Hruska must have convinced a many senators; mediocrity is well represented on the current Supreme Court.
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LukeJavan8
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Re: Mediocre

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun May 09, 2021 1:56 am

I was not too much into politics at the time
but I remember people sighing and rolling their
eyes at the mention of his name.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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Re: Mediocre

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun May 09, 2021 9:23 pm

There is mediocrity in the current Supreme Court. Throw in a big dose of skullduggery while you are at it. But don't say you heard it from me. :shock:
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