Does cutchyrun sound like someone who might cut and run? Perhaps it’s more like someone you would prefer to cut and run from. It’s not a cushy role to play, that’s for sure, and I don’t know whether it’s really something that’s catching.

A cutchyrun is one of the world’s Charlotte Bartletts (for those familiar with A Room with a View) – specifically in the sense that they always say “Don’t trouble yourself” or “Don’t stand on ceremony” when you know damn well that they will be quietly but tangibly disappointed if you don’t; they always say “It’s no problem at all” and they never complain but somehow you just know that it’s truly the most grievous problem, whatever it is you’re asking.

It’s really a fine-tuned skill, playing the cutchyrun. All the time you’re saying “Oh, do please come in. You’re most welcome. Oh, gracious no, it’s no problem at all! Would you like some tea? I do hope you don’t mind, the place is in a bit of disarray. Please, don’t stand on ceremony.” But all the time you’re saying it with only the slightest tired or mournful note in your voice, just the slightest downturn of the corner of the mouth or eye. A cutchyrun will always beg you to be comfortable, yet comfortable is the one thing you can never truly be around them. Unless, of course, you’re oblivious to social cues, in which case the cutchyrun will by some magic manage to make everyone else uncomfortable on your behalf.

This word looks like a grand old English word, doesn’t it? Or perhaps some Scots version, or maybe from the American south…

But if you visit someone in China and they want to say “Don’t mention it” or “You’re welcome” they say bu kéqi, which sounds sort of like “boo cutchy,” where bu 不 means ‘not’ or ‘no’ and kéqi 客气 means ‘polite, courteous, standing on ceremony’. And the word rén 人, which an average Anglo ear might convert to “run,” means ‘person’ – so a kéqirén is, well, a polite person.

So it would seem that cutchyrun is really a contact word from East Asia trading, with just a little shift in sense.

Well, OK, it’s not, but it could be. Actually, it’s a new old word. We don’t make words like that these days – aside from my just making this one up. Alas, we still make people like that.

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