Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Suggested By Sovereign

How often is it these days that you come across a word that you have no real clue as to what it means? Its got to be pretty rare these days. (Unless you make a habit of perusing medical or technical literature.) Reading an editorial in The Economist this morning, I was totally stumped by the end of this sentence:

“Christians see this as part of a pattern of murders through which Syria has been trying to wrest back the control it lost when its army was forced from Lebanon last year by outrage at what Lebanese assumed was Syria's killing of a former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, who had dared to question Syria's suzerainty.”

Suzerainty? I'm sorry, but no, I haven't the foggiest. Usually when encountering a new word today it is most likely a technological neologism or business buzzword where, with a little lateral thinking, you can work out what it means. Not so in this case. A quick look in my dictionary enlightens somewhat.

• A sovereign or state having some control over another state that is internally autonomous.
• Historical a feudal overlord.
ORIGIN Early 19th century: from French, apparently from sus ‘above’ (from Latin su(r)sum‘upward’), suggested by souverain ‘sovereign
My new word for the day then. I suppose it may come in useful
someday, in a particularly obtuse crossword clue, a tricky high-scoring Scrabble scenario, or if I ever do branch out into consulting on international diplomacy.