Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The word of the day...

...is quondam. It means "erstwhile, former, once, onetime." I don't remember ever seeing the word until I ran across it in Ron Chernow's fantastic new biography of George Washington the other day.

He uses it in his discussion of a threat to Washington's first bid for re-election to the Colonial Era-Virginia House of Burgesses in 1761. That challenge came from a former fellow officer of Washington's from the French and Indian War, Adam Stephen. In the course of the campaign, Chernow writes:
Washington...castigated his quondam friend Stephen as "designing" and unprincipled.
Quondam is a curiosity. But I think that it's an unnecessary word. Why use quondam when former or once will do?

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