It’s been over two weeks, but finally I am getting around to page 36 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. There are a lot of strange and useless words on this page. But I’ve picked a good word that seems like I should have known it: caducity.
Caducity Is Not a Musical Word
This page had a number of words I knew from music. And I learned something. The word “cadence” means both “the beat or measure of any rhythmical motion” and “a sequence of chords showing the end of a section or phrase.” Now, I knew both those words, but I was never certain if they were exactly the same word or if they were spelled differently. I know “cadence” well because I studied music theory. But the first definition is one I know only because I was in marching band in high school.
Another cool music word is “cadenza.” Now you might think this is related to “cadence,” but it isn’t. A cadenza is “an elaborate ostentatious passage for a solo instrument in a concerto, aria, etc.” They are often improvised or written by the performer. In my experience, they are dreadful. They are there for the purpose of showing off. Think: the classical music equivalent to a rock drum solo.
There were a number of property words. For example, “cadastral,” which is “of or pertaining to property boundaries.” There were a couple more related words. But then there was “cairn” which is “a heap of stones serving as a landmark. There were many others that I didn’t know that had nothing to do with property, of course. For example: calathiform. How I got this far not having a word to describe something shaped like a cup, I can’t say. No, wait! I can! I just say, “Shaped like a cup.”
All right, here we go: caducity.
2. the quality of being transitory; impermanence.
Date: mid 18th century.
Origin: from French, caducité, which means (Maybe?) “deciduous nature.” But it comes from the Latin word caducus, which is an adjective meaning “that falls” or “has fallen.” It was especially used in reference to warriors, as in, “He has fallen in battle.”
Example: This is also seen in The Pope’s Body, where Paravicini Bagliani inscribes the death of the pope within a dialectic of caducity and glorification. —Joëlle Rollo-Koster, in Death in Medieval Europe: Death Scripted and Death Choreographed.