On the origin of species

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in·cipi·ent (in sip′ē ənt)


Origin: Latin incipere

Ah, it’s been a long time between drinks.  And oh, how very appropriate that after such a lengthy hiatus I would be spurred to recommence with a word which is synonymous with the first word I ever profiled in this blog.  This word is incipient.

When something is incipient it is at an initial stage, embryonic and germinal.  The implied assumption is that the incipient thing will, in time, develop into a wholesome fullness.

What can  be incipient?

Point # 1 (and further evidence that this word came upon us all in an uncannily timely fashion).

You might describe our current government here in Australia as incipient.  Imagine that behind the scenes of the hung parliament and heavy negotiations which have been plaguing pollies and media commentators for over a week now, two potential governments lie in wait.  You don’t see them but they are there, gestating, incipient if you will, just waiting to be called upon to develop and expand into their role.

Governments aren’t the only things that can be incipient.

In his book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin describes some species as incipient, a definition they retain until they become distinct species.

Anything can be incipient if it is in its early stages of development, although in my experience incipient tends to describe phenomena and feelings rather than objects.  An illness, a revolution, an immigrant population, literacy – all of these can be described as incipient in their early days.  It is unlikely, however, that a book, painting or wardrobe would be described as incipient.

Point # 2 (and continuing evidence that this word has come upon us all in an uncannily timely fashion).

I might be the only one of us that hasn’t yet seen DiCaprio’s latest sci-fi/action/suspense/thriller, Inception.  Incidentally, I’ve only heard good reports, something about an alternate dream world involving computers perhaps, with remarkable special effects?  It sounds good.  But right now the point of interest is its title: Inception (noun).  Inception means beginning.  Rather like incipient, right?  And you don’t have to look very far to find out their common root, incept:

Origin of incipient:  Latin incipere

Origin of inception: Latin inceptio

Origin of incept:  Latin incipere incept – begin

So you see, this word is current, it relates to today’s politics, its close relative inception is the title of a Hollywood Blockbuster: incipient really should be all the rage among closet linguaphiles.  Let’s make it so.

Three ways to use incipient TODAY 🙂

1. We had such a great night!  And then we sat on the beach watching the incipient sunrise do its colourful thing on the ocean.  (See how it makes your trashy sleepless night sound poetic?)

2.   Did you notice the incipient spring in the air?  It won’t be long before the jacarandas are out.

3.  I can feel my incipient frustration at having to wait 30 minutes for a bus during peak hour in Sydney.  (Although you may find that that is an understatement.)

A small caveat:  Before you step out into the world armed with this new word and an incipient desire to use it, it is my responsibility to introduce you to its non-identical but very similar-sounding twin insipience.  Do not mix these guys up.  Trust me.  The misuse of insipience would result in an embarrassingly reflexive insipience, given that insipience means a lack of wisdom or general foolishness.  Just don’t do it.  Instead, put incipient in your diary, calendar, iPhone if you must, and use it before you lose it  🙂

P.S  Thanks go to Erin for suggesting that we save this word

All definitions as found in The Australian Oxford Dictionary (1999)

©ninagallo 2010


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