In Monday's Words of Others, I quoted from chapter of the book "An Artist in Treason" in which our villain, James Wilkinson, has moved to the frontier in Kentucky. One of Wilkinson's talents was in giving good first impressions to everyone he met (only to borrow, betray, and disappoint later). A description of one such impression gave me a word to explore:
In staccato style, a fellow settler, Humphrey Marshall, noted the impact of Wilkinson's physical presence, energy, and wit: "A person not quite tall enough to be perfectly elegant, compensated by symmetry and appearance of health and strength; a countenance open, mild, capacious and beaming with intelligence; a gait firm, manly and facile; manners bland, accommodating and popular; and address easy polite and gracious, invited approach, gave access, assured attention, cordiality and ease. By these fair terms, he conciliated; by these he captivated."
Whoa. I thought I was reading a history book, not a romance novel.
Steamy or not, that description was indeed staccato. The definitions from Webster's New World:
- 1. In musical direction: With distinct breaks between successive tones: usually indicated by a dot (staccato mark) placed over or under each note to be so produced.
- 2. Made up of abrupt, distinct elements or sounds, as in a staccato outburst of gunfire.
The American Heritage Dictionary had the best etymology I could find. It led back twice to related words and etymologies:
- Staccato: From the Italian past participle of staccare, meaning to detach, short for distaccare, from the obsolete French destacher, from the Old French destachier. See detach.
- Detach: From the French détacher, from the Old French destachier : des-, de- + attachier, meaning to attach. See attach.
- Attach: From the Middle English attachen, from the Old French attachier, an alteration of estachier, from estache, meaning stake, of Germanic origin.