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July 12, 2020

Word of the Day: Apropos

1 CQ

Word of the Day : September 30, 2017

apropos \ap-ruh-POH\ preposition


: with regard to (something) : concerning


Sean interrupted our conversation about politics and, apropos of nothing, asked who we thought would win the basketball game.

"Around that time I came across a felicitous quote by Mark Twain, which said, apropos the difficulty of writing about childhood, that you have to be old to write young." — Andrew Winer, The Color Midnight Made, 2002

Did You Know?

English speakers borrowed apropos from the French phrase à propos, literally "to the purpose." Since it first appeared in the 17th century, apropos has been used as an adverb, adjective, noun, and preposition. Left alone, the word probably wouldn't have gotten much attention, but in 1926 noted language expert H. W. Fowler declared of apropos "that it is better always to use of rather than to after it…." While this prescription seems to be based on the use of the preposition de ("of") in the French construction à propos de, rather than the actual usage history of apropos in English, some language commentators take Fowler's recommendation to be virtually a commandment. But others have noted that apropos is sometimes used by itself in professionally edited prose, or, more rarely, is followed by to.

Aired September 30, 2017

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