My Royal Court

16 June 2011

Leaves a Sour Taste

While listening to one of those 24-hour, late-breaking, cable news channels this morning, I heard the newscaster convey the story of a young woman on trial for murder.  As I was not fully vested in the story, I listened with one ear, but this proved enough to detect a slight faux pas.   He noted that the perpetrator of this alleged crime had a “dour expression” on her face as she was being led into the courtroom.  This was not an incorrect word choice here as this fits.  It was his elocution.    

The word dour can function as an adjective, adverb, or noun.  The first use dates to the 14th century and became widespread in 16th and 17th century New England oftentimes describing the Puritan advocates.   An exultant bunch?  I would presume not.  Life must have been demanding then for such a dismal word often used to describe them. 

In the above-noted phrase, dour is functioning as an adjective meaning gloomy, grim, or stern.  True, one certainly could display this when on trial.  However, in the traditional sense, the word when pronounced does not rhyme with sour.  We are not talking lemons here.  Rather, the pronunciation is closer in rhyme with the word tour. 

If you’re going to use a word this archaic, take it old school and express it in original form.  Your listener may cheer you for it. 

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