Printable Version
Pronunciation: in-su-see-êns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Affected nonchalance, blithe indifference, emotional coolness.

Notes: Today's Good Word is so fresh from French that some still prefer to give it the French pronunciation: [N-su-syahNs], where the vowels before the capital Ns are nasal vowels. This noun possesses all the beauty of the whispering breeze it sounds like. It becomes even more mellifluous than the adjective it is derived from (insouciant) by simply replacing the final [t] with an [s] sound. The adverb is insouciantly, should you need it.

In Play: Insouciance may be an indifference that borders on snobbery: "Reginald accepted his award with the aplomb and insouciance befitting the heroic figure he assumed himself to be." However, it may simply refer to a casually indifferent, unemotional attitude toward anything: "Madeleine had exhibited a consistent insouciance to religion since Mr. Wright, the assistant pastor at her church, ended their affair."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes, as mentioned above, quite recently from French. It is composed of in- "not" + souciant "troubling", the present participle of soucier "to disturb, trouble". Soucier is the result of a French drubbing of Latin sollicitare "to trouble, bother", itself borrowed by English as solicit. (Don't solicitors bother you?) Sollicitare seems to be the result of an earlier compound based on sol- "single, whole, complete" + citus "moved, summoned", the past participle of ciere "to move, stir, shake". Sol- is found in many English words borrowed from Latin and Romance languages: solid, solo, and solitary. Citus, of course, underlies cite and citation. (Today we must cite the one and only Nathan Fleming as the person who suggested this beautiful word for our Good Word series with complete insouciance.)

Dr. Goodword,

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