Pronounced: high-per-kuh-THEK-sis, noun

Notes: I didn’t know this word, but I love it; I’ve love to find ways to slide this word into conversations

Yesterday’s phrase

The phrase de minimis means “lacking significance or importance; so minor as to merit disregard”.

First usage

This is a late phrase, coming into usage around 1950

Background / Comments

Yesterday, I mentioned the phrase de mortuis, which I’ve run across in Dorothy Sayers books about Lord Peter Wimsey. It is a shortened version of the full phrase de mortuis nil nisi bonum, which is an aphorism of social etiquette. (Apparently, this same saying can also be shortened as nil nisi bonum). If Latin is not your thing, it means “don’t speak ill of the dead” (literally, “of the dead, nothing but good”, with ‘speak’ or ‘say’ implied.) I only bring this up because our phrase reminds me of it. Our phrase came from the legal system, which is full of Latin sayings. In fact, there is a legal doctrine that is much older that starts with our phrase: de minimis non curat lex (the law does not concern itself with trifling matters). This doctrine began to be called the de minimus rule. After a time, it was used (still just in legal situations) on its own with our meaning, and then it began to spill out into the general populace.

Published by Richard

Christian, lover-of-knowledge, Texan, and other things.

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