• longueur •
Pronunciation: long-gêr, long-gUr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Long, tedious passage of time. 2. A long, tedious and boring passage in some work of art, literary or musical.
Notes: In Britain this noun is often used in the plural, longueurs, as 'I can't stand the longueurs of another afternoon with the Milquetoasts.' This word only entered English in the late 18th century and may still be given French pronunciation in English. Its recency and peripherality contributed to it having no lexical offspring. Don't forget the second U in spelling this word: UEU reflects the French proclivity for vowels.
In Play: A boring stretch may be a longueur: "A weekend in New Monia is one exasperating longueur that makes watching parking meters an exciting adventure." A boring passage in a musical work or book can also be a longueur: "Rhoda Book's latest novel has some exciting scenes, though interspersed with sleep-inducing longueurs."
Word History: Today's Good Word started out as PIE dlon-gho-/dlen-gho- "long/length", origin of English long, Dutch and German lang "long" and Latin longus "long". French inherited the Latin word, reduced it to long, extended it to the noun longue, and added the French suffix -eur, to get longueur "length, long time". Why the initial D in the PIE root? Because in Russian the words for "long" are dlinnyi (space) and dolgii (time), and in Greek the word is dolikos. English linger was in Old English lengan "to prolong", another descendant of the E variant of the PIE word for "long". Lombard came from the Latin compound Langobardus, apparently borrowed from some Germanic language, where it meant "long bearded (ones)". (The mind of our old friend George Kovac, who proposed today's Good Word, knows no longueur.)