Podcast quodlibet

Printable Version
Pronunciation: kwahd-li-bet Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A topic or issue offered for debate. 2. (Music, humorous) A fanciful medley of tunes or musical pieces.

Notes: Today's Good Word has fallen on hard times, but it has enjoyed great popularity in the past. The large family of its derivations bears eloquent witness to this fact. The adjectival forms that have at least been taken out for a publicational drive include quodlibetal, quodlibetic, and quodlibetary. The last is probably the preferable since someone who discusses the great issues of the day is a quodlibetarian (careful not to omit the quod).

In Play: Although originally referring to theological and philosophical issues, quodlibets today are any topic suggested for or taken up in a debate: "The Sunday morning TV listings are packed with programs featuring current pop mavens discussing the latest quodlibets in the press." The 'wedge issues' in the political debate in the US may be seen as peripheral quodlibets that we waste time debating when more important quodlibets lie ignored on the table.

Word History: Today's Good Word has two meanings that seem totally unrelated today yet this Good Word comes from Medieval Latin quodlibetum, which ties them together. It is based on the Latin phrase quod libet "anything at all", from quod "what(ever)" + libet "pleases (you)", 3rd person singular of libere "to be pleasing". The root of libere is of the same origin as English love, German lieben, and Russian lyubit', all with the same meaning. The ancestor of quod, pronounced roughly [kwod], became what, pronounced [hwat] in English when the [k] quite predictably became [h] and the [d], [t] in Old Germanic. (Today's Good Word comes to us by courtesy of Mark Bailey, a major quodlibetarian of our Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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