• brusque •
brêsk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective.
Meaning: Blunt, huffy, rudely short or curt.
Notes: The most common error related to this word is, of course, its spelling. Don't drop your guard and write
brusk; that went out in the 17th century. Another tender area is the comparative forms. Because this word has only one syllable, we would expect its comparative and superlative forms to end on -er and -est. However, the tide of writers is turning to more brusque and most brusque. At this point it is your choice, but in this case we like the direction of the tide. Brusquely is the adverb and brusqueness, the noun.
In Play: Brusqueness is a quick directness that is mildly offensive: "When I asked Celia Feight who dyes her hair, she brusquely showed me the door." You have probably encountered situations like this: "The brusque demeanor of Gayla Vente left me thinking that she was a person of some importance."
Word History: Today's Good Word is French brusque "lively, fierce" borrowed from Italian or Portuguese brusco "coarse, rough". These words are hand-me-downs from Late Latin bruscum, which some believe is a blend of brucus "heather" and ruscus "butcher's broom". We don't think so, however, since blends are a recent phenomenon rarely found outside English. It may come from bruscum alone, based on Late Latin brucus "heather". It might have been borrowed from Celtic, compare Breton brug "heath" and Old Irish froech. These are just guesses which ignore the semantic problems.