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In a word: traduce

By John E. McIntyre

The Baltimore Sun

9:54 AM EST, November 26, 2012

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Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be acquainted, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

TRADUCE

We must enjoy speaking ill of other people, because we have so many words for it: gossip, slander, vilify, calumniate. This week's word, traduce (pronounced truh-DOOS), is rich in possibilities.

The Latin sense of traducere, "to lead along," came to mean exhibiting as a spectacle, disgracing. In English, it means to speak badly of a person to damage his or her reputation.  From its Latin origins, it can mean to make a mockery of. It can mean to betray. Serious business.

Example: From William Cowper in the eighteenth century: "The man that dares traduce because he can with safety to himself, is not a man."

In the twentieth century, the playwright George S. Kaufman, after a long night of losing hands at poker, is supposed to have said that he had been trey-deuced.