• causerie •
caw-zêr-ee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Superficial chitchat or a chatty article with little depth.
Notes: We might expect today's word to refer to fiery political debate over some cause, but it is just the opposite. It is, in fact, a superficial conversation or article, chitchat on one subject or none at all. English writers also use causeuse from time to time. Surely, if this word has nothing to do with causes, it should refer to a lady participating in a causerie, the feminine of causeur. But it doesn't. A causeuse is a small couch or sofa that accommodates only two people sitting closely enough for an intimate causerie.
In Play: Oral causerie is most often encountered at cocktail parties or similar fancy social gatherings: "If only the hors d'oeuvres had been as inoffensive as the causerie at Allison's soirée, the evening would have been perfect." In fact, the purpose of causerie is pure pleasantry, plain and simple: "Please do drop over sometime for a sip of dry sherry and pleasant causerie."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed, as usual, from French causerie "chatting", the action noun from causer "to chat", inherited from Latin causari "to plead (a case)", a verb based on causa "a cause, interest, lawsuit". This verb's meaning descended greatly over the centuries between Latin and French, from "please a case" to "talk, chat." Where causa came from is a matter of dispute. Some thinks Latin borrowed it from Etruscan, cafsa "cause". Etruscan was a non-Indo-European language spoken on the Italian peninsula prior to Latin. Others, think is might have come from PIE kewh-/kowh- "to hit, strike", source also of Russian kovat' "to forge (blacksmith)", Lithuanian kŠuti "to beat, fight, kill". (May we all now thank Rob Towart, a prolific contributor of Good Words as fascinating as today's)
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