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Having a lovely time in sunny SoCal Smile.

We went to the Petersen Automotive Museum yesterday and we were given a questionnaire to fill in about how they could improve their service.

One of the questions was how we best assimilated information (audio/visual displays, notices, etc.) and one of the options was "docent-led tours". I'd never come across this term before and had absolutely no idea what it meant, so I had to ask and discovered that a Docent is a volunteer tour guide.

Has anyone any idea as to the origins of this word?
 
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docent

It's a word from Latin docens 'teaching' that is the present participle of doceo 'to teach. It's the same origin of doctor literally 'teacher'. It's also a term in German universities, Dozent, that is similar to our (US) lecturer.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Docent isn't a word that you hear in the midwest. I have a friend from D.C. who used it to much confusion among Midwesterner.

I wouldn't be entirely sure that docent implies "volunteer". A regular tour guide at a museum could easily be called a docent.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by zmjezhd:
docent

It's a word from Latin docens 'teaching' that is the present participle of doceo 'to teach. It's the same origin of doctor literally 'teacher'. It's also a term in German universities, Dozent, that is similar to our (US) lecturer.


Ah, thanks zmj Smile.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Seanahan:
Docent isn't a word that you hear in the midwest. I have a friend from D.C. who used it to much confusion among Midwesterner.

I wouldn't be entirely sure that docent implies "volunteer". A regular tour guide at a museum could easily be called a docent.


I've never encountered it before - ever. In the UK we just call them volunteer guides.
 
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Webster's New Explorer dates the usage at 1880. I have heard the term thousands of times
 
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I have also never heard the term before.
 
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Wikipedis has an article. I'd never come across the term before.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
Wikipedis has an article. I'd never come across the term before.


There you go! Arnie had never heard of it, it's officially obscure.
 
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Docent isn't a word that you hear in the midwest.

I'm not sure I agree with you, Sean. I hear it in Chicago often enough.
 
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I, too, have never heard the word. Is it pronounced with a hard or a soft "c"?


Richard English
 
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/'dowsEnt/


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
I, too, have never heard the word. Is it pronounced with a hard or a soft "c"?



Soft "c" as in a letter from colledge. I want the dough sent to my dorm, Love, your son.
 
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I have heard the word only rarely. I looked it up after somebody from Vancouver used it.
 
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I've definitely never hear the word.


Richard English
 
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Speaking of obscure words, if I may here's a pertinent link

http://wordsmith.org/board/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=16...=0&page=0#Post166619

So in this connection I wonder how and when you'd consider a term to be obscure. I would have placed "docent" in the very-common category until Rich avowed he hadn't even heard it

Of course this is no affront to Rich, who probably is familiar with tens of thousands I'd never heard
 
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I took the trouble to look up docent in the OED1, brick 'n' mortar microprint version t'other day. The first meaning, from the 17th century, simply was a synonym of 'teaching', which same is its meaning in Latin. The second meaning was flagged as an Americanism, from the late 19th century, as an unpaid teaching assistant or instructor at a university. (The entry also mentioned the German term Privatdozent as a possible origin.) I think its modern American usage preserves the unpaid, voluntary status of most museum docents.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Interesting, zmj. Is the OED brick 'n' mortar better than the online version?

I am surprised to hear people say that it's a rare word (or stranger yet, that they hadn't heard it) because, as I said, it is frequently used in the Chicago area. I had never thought it to be an Americanism or a regionalism.

Dale, regarding your link to AWAD, you could put the Wordcraft Dictionary in that mix that tsuwm recommended. Wink
 
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Is the OED brick 'n' mortar better than the online version?

Depends on what you mean by better? It's just that the OED1 is older than Richard and a British publication.

As far as I can tell, it is an Americanism. I started noticing it being used of volunteers at state parks and museums in the eighties.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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All the dictionaries I have checked refer to it as North American.


Richard English
 
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