Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)


I remember this fine word from the GRE exam from a dozen years ago, but I haven’t seen it since, until now, thanks to The Republican War on Science, by my friend and fellow SciBling, Chris Mooney. This book was recently released in the more affordable trade paperback. If you haven’t read this book yet, now is the time (I’ve read it once already in hard-cover, but never reviewed it, so I am going to rectify that oversight in the near future by reviewing this updated paperback).

Contretemps (KON-truh-tahn; Fr. kawntruh-tahn) [Origin: 1675-85; French, equivalent to contre- counter- + temps time (Latin tempus)]

noun plural

  1. an inopportune occurrence; an embarrassing mischance: He caused a minor contretemps by knocking over his drink.
  2. An unforeseen event that disrupts the normal course of things.

Usage: In 2002, a huge contretemps arose over the US Climate Action Report, a State Department document required by the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international treaty.



  1. #1 certhia
    November 30, 2006

    Hi Hedwig, Wow and thanks– I’ve been using “contretemps” slightly wrong all my life…would have described some of the events with my family this long, out-of-town week as being contretemps, but now guess I have to switch back to just plain “dysfunctional”… 🙂
    Blessings this bright cold day (6 deg.F. in MN).

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