Q for Quidnunc


Ok, so if you actually know who can be called a quidnunc, chances are you are either a bona fide logophile, or you have seen the eminently forgettable movie “Love Happens’ which despite starring Jennifer Aniston and having words like “quidnunc” and “poppysmic” liberally sprinkled in, sadly failed to impress logophiles… or anistonophiles (yep, just made that word up, logophilia does entitle  you to a few editorial liberties!). Qudinunc does however have an interesting etymology, literally meaning “what now” in Latin, though with time a quidnunc has come to now describe someone who is always aware of and interested in gossip.

Yes, a quidnunc is the tuxedo-wearing cousin of the more friendly and approachable adjective: “busybody” !

I doubt if the same Latin pedigree in translation influenced the tantalizingly close and fairly ubiquitous greeting in the Southern United States of “do what now”. Entirely confusing to anyone who stumbles upon the phrase while moving to or simply visiting states like Alabama, Arkansas or Texas, “do what now” is neither a grammatical aberration nor the badly formed question that it sounds like. Instead it is a homegrown expression that combines the sentiment of “excuse me” or “pardon me” with the geniality of an aw-shucks demeanor, not unlike the unpretentious warm  hospitality and charm of the “deep south”.

But back to Quidnunc, and an important question it bodes: is a quidnunc merely a curious person, or are they purely a gossip mongerer. What really is the difference between curiosity and gossip anyway ? There are those that would posit that curiosity leads to a career in the sciences while a good gossip is a fast ticket to a reality TV show. But channeling of your inner quidnunc may well be the approach to keep a fresh perspective on life and keep it interesting. If you find yourself at a point where you’re curious about nothing, you may have just attained the detached spirituality of a monk. Until that happens, stay curious. Question yourself, question assumptions about yourself, your reality, your definition of success and happiness. If you are harking back to the cautionary tale of feline misfortune (resulting from said cat’s curious nature) do remember that Shakespeare originally penned it as “care killed a cat” . In that context, he meant care as in worrying about something and not being curious, so rest assured, curiosity can be safely absolved of any homicidal attributes.

And anyway, the name of the play where the Bard talks about all this ? “Much Ado About Nothing”. A phrase which itself is always a great reminder to keep in mind whenever you feel yourself getting worried, curious…or even in the mood for some gossip !

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