& see the movie.
Last summer, I received the following note and word - a - day definition from my brother:
I was assigned to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion at MCRD San Diego.
They set me up with a desk just inside the office complex where I
was supposed to "greet" and direct personnel to the correct clerk
for assistance. In addition to that I was given about 12 or 15
unrelated tasks such as ID cards, etc.
Now I find out after all these years that I had a real job title.
Wish I had known this word then!"
Brummbaer aka Sgt Carriker, USMC
noun: A servant or a low-level employee tasked with many things.
From Latin factotum, from facere (to do) + totus (all).
Earliest documented use: 1573.
"Now, a reporter trying to interview a business source
is confronted by a phalanx of factotums."
David Carr; The Puppetry of Quotation Approval;
The New York Times; Sept 16, 2012.
How timely for me that my brother shared factotum when he did because I was right in the middle of reading a novel -- The Elegance of the Hedghog by Muriel Barbery -- in which I encountered this unusual word not once but twice. Without his note, I would surely have had to look it up!
In one passage, Barbery says that the housekeeper of a fancy Paris apartment "found herself reigning over a laughable kindgdom whose subjects were the cleaning lady (Manuela), the part - time butler (an Englishman), and the factotum (her husband)" (49).
In another, a young man is describing his work at a "ship's chandler's." A childhood friend asks him, "What do you actually do at your job?" And he replies: "I'm sort of a factotum, stock man and messenger boy, but I'm learning as I go along, so now from time to time they give more interesting things to like repair sails or shrouds, or put together the provision inventory" (293 - 94).
Thanks to Dave, I was able to read through those passages without skipping a beat! Of course, I still had to look up "ship's chandler." But it made more sense than it would have had he not written to share the day's vocabulary word. Thanks Dave!
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