• 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 taken from French causerie "chitchat", based on the verb causer, meaning, among other things, "to chat". The French inherited the word from their Roman ancestors, specifically Latin causari "to plead, discuss", based on the noun causa "case, cause". The origins of causa are obscure, but this word may come from the same root as caudex (caud-) "tree stump". In Roman times prisoners were chained to caudices, which held them together in a way not totally dissimilar to the way conversations and causes hold us together. Later caudex became codex, which originally referred to a writing tablet that was the precursor of the book. The original codices were sheets of smoothed wood with wax on them to accommodate note-taking and informal writing. Today codices are ancient books written on papyrus or parchment.
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