Challenging Word of the Week (May 8, 2023)

Greetings and salutations, fellow word lovers! It's Monday, so that means it's time for another Challenging Word of the Week! I meant to do this earlier in the day, but work ate my lunch today, so that's why I'm not getting around to this until well after 5 pm!

Anyhoo, this week's word is defalcation. If you're not already familiar with it, take a guess as to what it means. Does defalcation mean:

A) To default on a loan

B) To return a recently purchased item for a specious or spurious reason

C) To misappropriate money

Before I reveal the meaning of this week's word, I'd like to take a brief pause and remind you that these challenging words come to you from the Butter Lamb Reference Library and the book, 2000 Most Challenging and Obscure Words, by Norman W. Schur. 

So, without further delay, here is the answer to this week's challenging word: is C) to misappropriate money. Here's how our buddy Mr. Schur explains it.

Defalcation (pronounced dee fal KAY shun) is a noun [that means] misappropriation of money or property by a person holding it in a fiduciary capacity, like a trustee, guardian, public official, or corporate officer. It comes from Middle Latin defalcatio (taking away), based on Latin defalcatus, past participle of defalcare (to cut off). Falx is Latin for "scythe" and its stem, falc-, is the source of our word falcate, meaning "curved," like a scythe or sickle. Scythes cut things off, so defalcators, in their evil way. It's bad enough to steal a stranger's money; defalcation from a trusting soul is worse. A guardian found guilty of defalcation would surely be removed and should go to jail. 

Mr. Schur goes on:

The noun peculation (pek vuh LAY shun) covers a wider area, being applicable to any case of embezzlement. though, like defalcation, it can be applied to misappropriation of public funds, or, more narrowly, to money or property entrusted to one's care. A mayor's peculation of public funds would drive him out of office. Both defalcation and peculation amount to dipping into the till. Peculation and its verb peculate  (PEK yuh late) are from the Latin noun peculatus, based on the past participle of the verb peculari (to embezzle), literally to "make public funds private," (i.e., make them one's own- case of illegal "privatization." In this peculiar case, privatization really amounts to what the American market calls "going public." 

Well, there you have. Come back next week for another challenging word!


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