E Zine of KV Pattom published by the Library

Debacle

In Word of the week on March 20, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Debacle (noun)

Pronunciation: [di-‘bah-kl]
Definition: A sudden rush of water and debris such as results from dam failure or the breaking up of river ice in the spring; any sudden, total collapse or rout.
Usage: The problem with today’s word is that no one knows how to pronounce it. Most dictionaries now concede three acceptable pronunciations: [di-‘bah-kl], [di-‘bæ-kl] and [‘de-bê-kl]. The first is not only closer to the original French but seems to be the preference of most speakers today. It is the one we recommend.
Suggested Usage: We seem to be moving away from the original meaning of this word, “The spring debacle of the Susquehanna caused considerable damage to several bridges.” We should keep it alive since it serves a useful function. We can also speak of the debacle of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 or the debacle of the Soviet empire in the 1990s.
Etymology: French débâcle, from débâcler “to unbar, release” from Old French desbacler : des- “un-” + bacler “to bar.” The Old French word probably came from a Vulgar Latin verb *baculare, derived from Latin baculum “rod, staff, walking stick.” “Bacillus” is the diminutive of “baculum” and hence means “a little “rod,” the shape of many bacilli and bacteria. “Bacterium” goes back to Greek bakterion, the diminutive of baktron “rod.”

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