• malversation •
mæl-vêr-say-shên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Misconduct or malfeasance in public office, at one time also known as jobbery.
Notes: No, today's Good Word doesn't mean bad conversation. It should be heard more frequently in our conversations, good or bad, given all we read and hear about malfeasance in public office these days. Well, if you have ever wanted to express "misconduct in public office" in a single, tidy word, malversation is the word for you. It is a paronym of the verb malversate, which usually suggests the misappropriation of public funds, as a mayor who malversates city tax revenues. The adjective would be malversational or malversative, should you like to be the first to use either.
In Play: It is difficult to think of this word as "in play", given its meaning, but here is an example: "The senator resigned before the Senate Ethics Committee could initiate an investigation into possible malversation." Many people in public office seem to be unable to avoid the practice: "Since when is ignoring the mayor's parking tickets malversation?"
Word History: The -ion on the end of today's Good Word is a dead giveaway that it comes from French, where it is the noun from the verb malverser "to misbehave". The French word descended from the Latin phrase male versari "to behave badly", made up of male "badly" + versari "to behave". Latin malus "bad" from which the adverb male derives, can also be seen lurking in such English words borrowed from French and Latin as malign, malady, malevolent and dismal—all bad things. (No, don't even think it, girls: English male is totally unrelated.)