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Trenchant

Definition: Forceful, effective, vigorous (as in argument or speech); cutting, precise (as in commentary, criticism); distinct, clear-cut.

Pronunciation: trin-CHINT

Origin:

This word comes almost directly from the present participle of Old/Medieval French’s trenchier, “to cut”.

Why this word?

The first time I heard The Clash’s “London Calling”, I thought the line “’Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing” was “’Cept for the rain, and that trenchant thing”. I was kind of disappointed when I looked up the true lyrics for the tune after I learned what trenchant meant, and found that I was wrong in what I’d heard. (In my defense, Joe Strummer has a thick accent, and my little sister thought the song “Rock The Casbah” was actually “rock the cat box” for years.)

Though, after linguistic studies down the road; concerning the intention of the misheard lyric, I wasn’t wrong entirely– A truncheon, or “a billy club”, is a short, hard stick that police in Great Britain carry around in lieu of firearms. Using one effectively delivers a sharp, precise hit to an opponent, creating a painful, distinctive physical injury. In a way, the real lyric “…of that truncheon thing” was like the physical side of words chosen for the song meant to convey a forceful, vigorous clash (no pun intended) of a pair of objects meeting. Where my misunderstood “trenchant” was actually “truncheon”, the intention of the verse wasn’t completely lost in translation; the vigor and effective severity of the subjects mentioned in the line remained.

(…Or so I tell myself.)

How do you use trenchant in a sentence?

Ouch, you trenchant bastard– I asked you for constructive criticism; I didn’t say ‘Hey, how about you attack my story like it personally insulted your mother’.”

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Written by Veronica Jacobs

Veronica Jacobs is a fiction writer, blogger, academic editor, and sci-fi enthusiast. Currently working freelance (with a background in English Literature), she spends most of her time writing.

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