Word of the Day

Monday, July 31, 2006


\KAHN-truh-tahn\ , noun;
plural contretemps \-tahnz\
An inopportune or embarrassing situation or event; a hitch.
Mrs. Post was the center of a notable contretemps when she spilled a spoonful of berries at a dinner of the Gourmet Society here in 1938.
-- "Emily Post Is Dead Here at 86; Writer was Arbiter of Etiquette", New York Times, September 27, 1960
He looked worried, distressed, more distressed than one should look in the face of a slight contretemps.
-- Anita Brookner, Undue Influence
Nathan was a fiercely ambitious and competitive man, as quick to take offenceas to give it in his business dealings, and it is not difficult to imagine him responding impetuously to such a contretemps.
-- Niall Ferguson, The House of Rothschild
Contretemps comes from French, from contre, "against" (from Latin contra) + temps, "time" (from Latin tempus).
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