January 28, 2007

tertium quid

tertium quid n. Literally, "a third something"; a tertium quid is distinct from two other things but hard to name or classify:

"neither fish nor fowl but a tertium quid"
"In an either . . . or assertion, a defensible tertium quid can always be found."
Hook, J. N. The Grand Panjandrum. New York: MacMillan, 1980.

Pronunciation: ter'-shim-quid

Sample Sentences
"With a foot set firmly neither in the world of the whites nor that of the blacks and unable to claim full-fledged membership in Old World England or in New World Jamaica, [Francis] Williams was truly a tertium quid, a third thing.--Williams, Scott W., New York: The Mathematics Department of the State of New York at Buffalo, Mathematicians of the African Diaspora, "Francis Williams: Jamacian Freedman 1707-1770" (28 Jan. 2007).

Question on job application: "How do you describe yourself, as comedian, commentator, or tertium quid? Explain in under 200 words. --B'n' J.


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