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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:

INFRA DIG

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English has always feely borrowed from Latin, an unashamed appropriation that has sometimes been marked by insouciance. Thus we have infra dig (pronounced IN-fruh DIG), meaning "beneath one's dignity." It is a straightforward appropriation of infra dignitatem, same meaning.

The connotation is more interesting than the raw meaning. To use infra dig is to affect a breezy casualness, a sophisticated, almost aristocratic, tone. Using it says to the reader, "Of course we know Latin, but we don't wish to look like swots." (Depending on nationalisty and generation, you may wish to substitute grinds, wonks, nerds, dorks, dweebs, or poindexters.)

Example: From a 1997 New York Times article on photography by Vicki Goldberg: "Riboud photographed China in black and white, the revered documentary approach that magazines almost did away with in the late 70's and only recently have begun to publish again. His pictures generally strive for clarity, lucidity, order and balanced compositions, with the subject frequently in the center. At times he even looks for beauty, a quality unfortunately thought infra dig by trendsetters today."

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