Word Nerd: Riding a Segue

Reading Time: 2 minutes

inigo-segue

Today we have an odd one: a case of a made-up word taking the place of the word it’s meant to imitate. I can’t think of another example of a trademark taking the place of its homophone in popular usage.

Segue: to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption.

Segway™: a two-wheeled electrically-powered motorized personal vehicle.

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Segue came into common usage as a music term, a notation indicating that the musicians were to move from one composition to another without taking a break. Like most common music terms, it dates from the mid-1800s and comes from Italian. It means “there follows”; it’s the third person singular present indicative tense of seguire, from the Latin sequi, “to follow.”

Segway™ is an invented word, the registered trademark for Dean Kamen’s one-person vehicle. He invented both the scooter and the name, releasing both into the world in 2001. He chose the name because it combines the idea of a smooth transition (“segue”) with the idea of a path or road to a destination (“way”); put the two together and you get Segway, a trademarkable word that sounds just like its antecedent.

If you say you’re going to segway to a new topic, you’re saying you’re going to use an electric scooter to get to the next slide in your PowerPoint presentation.

This is Word Nerd #58; you can find all the Word Nerd installments in the Word Nerd Index.

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