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Much Ado About Word Usage

By Theda C. Snyder
Get to the Point

Farewell to All That

The error that seems increasingly common is “much adieu.” That should be “much ado.”

“Adieu” is a way to say goodbye. The French commonly say “au revoir” to say goodbye, roughly translated as “until we see each other again.” Adieu, on the other hand, translates as “to God,” a shorter version of “a dieu vous commant,” I commend you to God. It sounds more final. The English “goodbye” is actually a contraction of “God be with ye,” so there’s some parallel there.

We’ve all heard the title of Shakespeare’s play “Much Ado About Nothing,” a frothy little rom-com with lots of wordplay. “Ado” derives from “to do,” to make a fuss. Today, the word has slimmed down to a noun for fuss, commotion or ruckus.

Not the Same Word

Other than sounding similar, “adieu” and “ado” have nothing in common.

The biggest difference in pronouncing these words is the “y” sound at the beginning of the second syllable of adieu. That’s ah-dyuh. The vowel sound in the second syllable is like the oo in “book.”

Pronounce “ado” as ah-doo — no “y” sound. The second syllable rhymes with “blue.”

Both words have the emphasis on the second syllable.

Speaking, Not Writing

A spell-check of this post flagged the phrase “much adieu” and suggested changing it to “much ado.” Lawyers are not making this mistake in their writing; they’re making it in their speech. Presumably, these speakers do not realize that their incorrect pronunciation is of a different word than they intended.

Clients want careful lawyers. Sloppy communication undercuts the image you want to project. Don’t use words you are not 100% familiar with. Use a talking dictionary to hear the correct pronunciation of foreign words or when you are unsure.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Amazon.com. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at SnyderMediations.com and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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