You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: acumen

The Baltimore Sun

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

ACUMEN

When we talk about acumen (pronounced a-KYOO-min or ACK-yuh-min), we are identifying a kind of practical intelligence, the ability to understand a situation keenly and quickly and form a workable judgment. Shrewdness is a synonym. We frequently encounter the phrase business acumen, because in the business world the ability to quickly size up a situation and take appropriate action is a highly prized trait.

The Latin acuere, “to sharpen,” is also the root word for acute.

Example: Mike DeBonis, “Objections amid the ovations,” in The Washington Post on Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in 2015: “Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) called the address ‘an affront to the president of the United States, the Democratic leadership of Congress and the Department of State,’ while Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sought to throw doubt on Netanyahu’s security acumen by mocking his support of the Iraq War more than a decade ago.”

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