BEING THE FIRST ENTRY IN A BRIEF, FORTHCOMING SERIES ON EXPERTISE, THE AUTHOR EVIDENTLY FEELING A SLIGHT BIT SPECIALIZED THESE DAYS
n. — an occupation, profession, speciality
— in later use: an area of specific skill or ability; one’s forte
fm. pure unfiltered French, literally meaning job. The same root provides the English word mister, which also just meant occupation at first and evolved into a specialized craftsman—all of which can trace back to Latin and Anglo-Norman forms that deal in similarly defined words: master, minister, administrator, and magistrate.
first published. 1792
inspiration. a word I said in actual conversation the other day, which had me reflecting soon after on unlikelihood. How did it even come to mind? Where did I learn it?
The mostly likely answer: Chinatown (1974), one of the great film scripts. Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne puts the word in PI Jake Gittes’s mouth, though consulting at least one version the screenplay, page 49, you see it spelled phonetically.
Look, I do matrimonial work, It’s my metiay. When a wife tells me she’s happy her husband is cheating on her it runs contrary to my experience.