Succinct may be succulent or have a shiny sound like a knife, but terse cuts worse. Terse is tense. There is no tergiversation in terse. No time for verse, not terza rima, not even the tierce of it (one third). You can see the e and e giving you the cut-eye.

The word starts with a little spit of exasperation, the aspiration on the /t/. Then it’s straight into a syllabic liquid (or a neutral vowel for the non-rhotic), and quickly thereafter a hiss that can last as long as the other two phonemes combined. A jab, a sound, a hiss. And that’s it. Pressed reset. Wiped clean. Polished like a cut diamond, and just as cutting.

Whence comes this tight insertion? Where else but Latin? From tersus, ‘wiped’, past tense of tergere. Wiped? Wiped clean, polished, burnished, shining smooth without dirt. Spruce. Trim. Pithy. Visual Thesaurus gives three synonyms: Crisp. Laconic. Curt. You may be succinct without being impolite, but it is hard to be pleasant when being terse… though it’s perhaps not quite as rude as curt.

4 responses to “terse

  1. Pingback: succinct | Sesquiotica

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  4. Pingback: Mt. Hope Academy @ The Live & Learn Studio ~ October 2013 | Mt Hope Chronicles

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