• poseur •
po-zêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A person who pretends to be what he or she is not.
Notes: A charlatan or con artist pretends to be someone he or she is not in order to deceive. A poseur usually pretends to be someone better than he or she is in order to impress. Notice that, as opposed to the pronunciation of poser, someone who simply assumes a pose, the accent on today's word always falls on the final syllable. If you and your coconversationalists are good at French, you may pronounce the vowel in this syllable [œr] (the [e] of bet but with the lips rounded as if pronouncing O or U). We recommend against using the French feminine of this word, poseuse, no matter how good your French is.
In Play: Wherever you find pretense, you will find at least one poseur: "Mary Annette spoke of wine less as a connoisseur than as a poseur repeating phrases from a sommelier at a French restaurant." The good ones are difficult to spot: "It crossed my mind during my first year after graduation that I might have been taught by poseurs pretending to be professors rather than by real ones."
Word History: Today's Good Word is French poseur unadorned or modified. It is based on the verb poser "to pose, position something". This sense led to the sense of being in a composed, unnatural position (as to pose for a picture), which led to the sense of pretending to be something that we aren't. The French verb poser is the descendant of Late Latin pausare "to stop, rest", created from pausa "pause", another word English borrowed. But then Latin borrowed it from Greek pausis, so the former has no basis for complaint. (It is time for us to pause to thank the real David Ross for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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