• etiquette •
Pronunciation: ed-i-kêt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: A code of polite or acceptable behavior as prescribed by an authority.
Notes: Using today's Good Word requires remembering that it retains its original French spelling, including a QU combination pronounced [k]. The reduction of a T between vowels to a [d] pronunciation is most noticeable in the US, but it does occur elsewhere among English dialects. Remember that the first consonant in this word is spelled T.
In Play: We most commonly associate etiquette with the polite behavior of the upper classes: "Lindsey Woolsey so grossly violated social etiquette when she ate her salad with her dinner fork that she was never again invited to dine at the Farthingsworth estate." However, other social groups have their own rules of etiquette, too: "Russian party etiquette demands that anyone arriving late drink as many shots as the others at the party drank while waiting for them."
Word History: Both etiquette and ticket come from the same source, Old French estiquet "note, label, sticker", and later, simply etiquet. This word referred to small notes attached to various objects, explaining them, including notes explaining proper behavior in courts. English borrowed this word in the 16th century as tiket "written notice, certification", dropping the initial E. By the second half of the 17th century, tiket was being used as a ticket of admission, i.e. a certification of payment. In French the word then went on to become étiquette "registration book", a book which officially certified ceremonies. Never missing an opportunity, English borrowed the French word again in the 18th century in the sense of the prescribed routine of the courtroom. From there it expanded to prescriptive routines in general. So, where did the Old French word originate? It came from the Old French verb estiquer "to stick, affix", borrowed from Old Low German (Dutch) stekan "to stick". This same word dribbled down to Modern English as stick, the verb. (We must follow our own etiquette at this point and thank John Duffus for sticking to the job of convincing us to run this verb Good Word.)