• quidnunc •
kwid-nêngk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A busybody, a nosy person, especially one who is always asking questions that are none of his or her business.
Notes: The plural of today's word is a simple quidnuncs but we seem unable to decide whether the quality that distinguishes quidnuncs is quidnuncism or quidnunckery. (I'm inclined to prefer the latter.)
In Play: Kids, today's word is one you can have a lot of fun with because it sounds much worse than it really is: "You're just a big quidnunc! Now stay out of my room!" Say that to an older sibling and they will certainly tell your parents. But all you have to do is bring a dictionary with you to the dinner table to teach the troublemaker an important lesson: knowledge is power. If you are an adult, you probably know at least one quidnunc without a dictionary in the office. Now, you can fend off their quidnunckery verbally without lowering your speech standards.
Word History: Today's word comes from the Latin phrase Quid nunc? "What now? What's going on?" Quid comes from the Proto-Indo-European pronoun kwo-. As we now know, PIE [k] became [h] in English, so we would expect hwa-something in English. Well, pronounce what slowly and listen to yourself. In the dialects which preserve the initial H, we actually pronounce the [h] before [w] and switch them in our writing: what is pronounced [hwaht]. So, where, when, and which developed from the same primitive pronoun roots as Latin quid (pronounced [kwid]), quo "where", quando "when". By the way, Russian chto "what" and kto "who" come from the same root with to "that" suffixed to it. (Jeremy Busch is no quidnunc, so we must thank him especially for recommending today's Good Word.)