• battue •
Pronunciation: bæ-tu • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A hunt with beaters chasing game in the direction of the hunters. 2. This method of hunting. 3. Mass slaughter of a defenseless crowd.
Notes: The metaphorical sense of today's Good Word is unfortunately convenient for all the battues we have experienced in the US and other countries recently. This word would have been convenient in talking about all the battues in Las Vegas, Orlando, and the far too many school battues. Hopefully, we will never have occasion to use it again, but here it is, just in case. This word is a lexical orphan with no derivational family.
In Play: American hunters usually use dogs to flush out game, but elsewhere the battue is often employed: "Heavy investment was made to bring sufficient pheasants to England to be killed in battue after battue." So, the more relevant sense for Americans is the third one above: "The battue of first-graders and their teachers at Sandy Hook brought no change in gun safety laws."
Word History: This is another word English copped from French, the feminine of battu, the past participle of battre "to beat". French inherited this word from Latin battuere "hit, beat", a descendant of Proto-Indo-European bhau(t)- "to knock". Latin battuere was probably borrowed back from some other Indo-European language, maybe Gaelic bata "stick, cudgel", because the initial [bh] was supposed to become [f] in Latin as in fatuus "silly" from "knocked silly", source of English fatuous. Another English word that passed through Latin is battle. It comes from Old French bataille "battle, combat", the remnants of Late Latin battualia "military or other combat exercise", also from Latin battuere. (Thanks to Jeremy Busch, a Grand Panjandrum in the Alpha Agora, for suggesting today's sad but Good Word."