Saturday, September 8, 2012

Word Mastering in Toastmasters

'Came from a demo meeting by Toastmasters last night where I was the Word Master of the evening. This is the text of my presentation (as near as I can remember):

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

The English language has a lot of borrowed words, words that originated in other countries or other languages and found their way into common use in English. Tonight, I will share with you three words from Italy along with their original meanings.

The first word is:


Today people are more familiar with this word as a type of coffee drink. The original meaning, however, is, a person of nearly frantic demeanor; a person in a hurry or working at a face pace. The espresso coffee drink, which is a particularly strong type of coffee, probably got its name due to its effect on drinkers in which it energizes them.

The next word is:


The word "quarantine" is derived from the Italian word for "forty." In medieval times, sailing ships that came to port with sick passengers or crew were not allowed to disembark from the ship for forty days. Today people understand the word to mean "isolation" to prevent the spread of disease.

The last word is has been in the news these past days, I think you'll agree. The word  is:

sotto voce (soh-toh voh-che)

No, this is not another word for plagiarism (referring to Senator Tito Sotto who has been accused of copying someone else's speech). It actually means, to speak in a whisper or low, soft voice so as not to be overheard. The word is typically used in music and drama.

So, there we have it, ladies and gentlemen, three Italian words that have made it into common usage in the English language. Good evening.

(Note: I failed to mention it during the meeting—bad of me—but these three words came from an email from