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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Just deserts"

From the Triangle Grammar Guide something else I didn't know.
A reader asks about just deserts and just desserts. In fact, the phrase is just deserts. It comes from the French word that became deserve in English. To get one's just deserts means to get what one deserves, good or bad. Mostly, however, it means to get the punishment that's coming for bad behavior. To paraphrase an old saying, just deserts are best served cold.

From the Word Maven:
Desert, also pronounced "di-ZERT," is in modern use found almost exclusively in the compound just deserts. The word means 'reward or punishment that is deserved'. The two other senses included in most standard dictionaries are 'the fact of deserving well; merit; worth' ("If you retain desert of holiness"--Marlowe, Tamburlane); and 'the state or fact of deserving reward or punishment' ("Some will always mistake the degree of their own desert"--Samuel Johnson, Rambler No. 193). This desert is based on a French verb meaning 'to deserve', and is first found in the thirteenth century.


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2 Comments:

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Sylvia said...

Wow, I never knew that. How very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

 
At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, my coincidence for the day. I served someone their "just deserts" today, except I referred to it as the dish of "revenge...best served cold."

And it is. There's nothing more satisfying than a payback delivered long after the transgressor has forgotten the crime.

(And for those of you who don't believe in revenge, I say: Grow up!)

 

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