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

In a word: jocose

The Baltimore Sun

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


Admittedly, copy editors, who spend their days looking at the seamy underside of other people’s writing, are not pictured as a merry crowd, but get enough of them together at the bar at the annual conference of ACES: The Society for Editing and you’ll see a jocose gathering.

Jocose (pronounced jo-KOS), “joking,” “playful,” “humorous,” comes right out of the Latin jocus, “jest.” Jocosity is the noun.

Its cousin jocund, “cheerful,” “genial,” grows from the same root. You’ll probably recall Milton’s “L’Allegro”: “Sometimes with secure delight / The upland hamlets will invite, / When the merry bells ring round, / And the jocund rebecks sound ...”

The words, sadly, sound old-fashioned.

Example: Karl Raitz, “American roads, roadside America” in Geographical Review (July 1998)” “For the motorist touring to take in the scenery, roadside businesses now occupied the foreground and became the dominating element in any scene. No matter how aesthetic the background, the jocose collection of structures at the road's margin converted recreational travel into a mobile form of purgatory.”

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