Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Word of the Day -- Charlatan

A charlatan is a pretender to medical skill : quack; one making usually showy pretenses to knowledge or ability : fraud, faker

In medieval times, people claiming medical skills they did not have roamed throughout Italy, selling "medicine" that was often completely without worth. Many of these pretenders reputedly came from a village called Cerreto, and as a result, "cerretano" (meaning "inhabitant of Cerreto") became an epithet for a quack physician. In addition, these frauds used a practiced patter to attract customers, rather like the chatter of a circus barker. The Italian word for "chatter" is "ciarlare," and chattering was so associated with the "cerretano" that the spelling of the word shifted to "ciarlatano." By the early 17th century, we had anglicized the Italian word to "charlatan" and adopted it as our own.

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